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Buzzfeed News Reaps What It Sowed

You will still be able to figure out what your favorite hot dog condiment is, but a few years after publishing outlandish claims about Donald Trump based on discredited reports, Buzzfeed News has called it quits. 

In an email to staff shared with NBC News, BuzzFeed Inc. CEO and co-founder Jonah Peretti said the move was part of a 15% workforce reduction across a number of teams.

‘While layoffs are occurring across nearly every division, we’ve determined that the company can no longer continue to fund BuzzFeed News as a standalone organization,’ he wrote.

Peretti said he had overinvested in BuzzFeed News ‘because I love their work and mission so much.’

‘This made me slow to accept that the big platforms wouldn’t provide the distribution or financial support required to support premium, free journalism purpose-built for social media,’ he wrote.

He added that he had failed to ‘hold the company to higher standards for profitability’ to give it a buffer during downturns.

Buzzfeed’s leader did not give much hope to the other writers on the staff, telling them that while ChatGPT might not be taking everyone’s job, but they should expect it to take theirs rather soon. 

The Daily Beast wrote that Peretti “told the remaining staff that he would be focusing more of the company’s energy going forward on AI. ‘We will empower our editorial teams at all of our brands to do the very best creative work and build an interface where that work can be repacked and brought to advertisers more effectively,’ he said. ‘And we will bring more innovation to clients in the form of creators, AI, and cultural moments that can only happen across BuzzFeed, Complex, HuffPost, Tasty and First We Feast.'”

He did not say if the AI could have better judgment, however. But, chances are it will.  

In 2017 Buzzfeed became the first outlet to publish what became known in polite society as “the Steele Dossier” but has become better known as “The Russia Hoax.”

The report set off a firestorm that engulfed a presidency and uprooted ethics from some of our previously most respected institutions who revealed themselves as so desperate to prove the salacious claims that they’d spend a million dollars of taxpayer money in hopes of getting corroboration, much to the chagrin of Robert Mueller, who was tasked with investigating them.

The New York Times wrote in 2019: “In an age of unyielding appetite for all things Trump, big news travels fast.

So when BuzzFeed News reported on Thursday that the president had instructed his lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, to lie in his testimony to Congress — a felony — the assertion ricocheted around the cable TV ecosystem and into the halls of Congress, where Democratic lawmakers publicly mused on impeachment.

Unlike past articles on the possible ties between Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia, however, this one was not followed by similar stories from other news organizations, who proved unable to corroborate its findings with reporting of their own. And on Friday, the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, broke precedent by issuing a denial, interrupting nearly 20 months of silence from Mr. Mueller on news reports swirling around his investigation.

Whether BuzzFeed’s reporting can stand up to further scrutiny is now at the center of a test of the news media’s credibility.”

In 2021, CNN noted that “a series of investigations and lawsuits have discredited many of its central allegations and exposed the unreliability of Steele’s sources. They also raise serious questions about the political underpinnings of some key explosive claims about Trump by shedding new light on the involvement of some well-connected Democrats in the dossier, and separate efforts to prod the FBI to investigate ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

These revelations have triggered a reckoning around the Steele dossier, particularly in the wake of two recent indictments secured by John Durham, the special counsel appointed during the Trump administration to investigate the FBI’s Russia probe. Durham alleges that Steele’s primary source, a US-based foreign policy analyst, repeatedly lied to the FBI about where he got his information.”

It took a few more years, but the answer to the question from the Times about the credibility of Buzzfeed News became so clear that there was no denying it: No, its credibility could not stand publishing obviously fake stories about the president of the United States. 

It’s back to writing about the difficulty of sixth-grade geography tests.

Buzzfeed’s stock plummeted at the news. It fell from almost the price of a can of Arizona Ice Tea at 92 cents to closing at just under the price of a Kit Kat you might find at a gas station at 75 cents. 

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