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From Cat Videos to Campaign Coverage: AJR on BuzzFeed

BY Miranda Neubauer | Wednesday, January 25 2012

The American Journalism Review took a closer look at how former Politico writer Ben Smith is growing the news aggregation site BuzzFeed. He joined the site as editor-in-chief last month. As AJR reports, he has been shifting the site's focus more towards original content and hiring new staff members, with coverage of the 2012 election campaign playing a key role:

BuzzFeed's new journalists are already popping up on the campaign trail. On Thursday, for example, reporter Rosie Gray broke the news about Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum's response to a political flyer passed out in South Carolina that attacked his wife ... But while BuzzFeed is vying to become a trusted voice among those who get their news online, Smith is not downplaying the Web site's quirkiness. On Thursday, BuzzFeed scored the four participants in CNN's South Carolina GOP debate not with letter grades but with BuzzFeed's reaction buttons, or "Badges," tags usually awarded to images and videos that have gone viral. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich scored a "win" for denouncing CNN's John King for opening the debate with a question about allegations made by his ex-wife Marianne Gingrich.

But even though BuzzFeed participated in the recent SOPA protests and emphasizes community input, Smith told AJR that he compares the site more with the New York Times than with Reddit. "We're a news organization, basically. Every day, we ask ourselves, 'How are we going to outdo what we did yesterday?"