Regardless of how you feel about BuzzFeed Inc., it’s hard to deny that its unusual mix of random listicles, sponsored content and investigative reporting has captured the attention of the media world. So it was only a matter of time before the viral news website landed on the radar of media watchdogs.
On Monday, the left-leaning Media Matters for America called out BuzzFeed for a report on Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the coalition cofounded by New York Mayor Bloomberg. Matt Gertz, a deputy research director at Media Matters, criticized the original thesis of Buzzfeed's article, “Mayors Abandon Bloomberg’s Gun Control Group,” which appears to have held that the coalition is having a difficult time keeping its membership up. (The original, unedited article is no longer available.)
In a blog post, Gertz wrote that BuzzFeed’s story pushed a “long-running media myth that politicians who oppose the NRA should fear being defeated for reelection.” He also posted figures of the coalition’s membership list, comparing them to an archived list from Jan. 27. The results, according to Gertz, show an increase of 148 mayors -- hardly a sign of abandonment. Those numbers also jelled with a quote by Mark Glaze, the coalition’s director, who admitted to BuzzFeed that Mayors Against Illegal Guns loses mayors from time to time, but insisted that its membership is ultimately “going upward.”
BuzzFeed later updated its story and posted a correction, reiterating that “Mayors Against Illegal Guns is gaining more members than it’s losing.” (The headline remains intact.)
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Media Matters, whose stated mission is to monitor “conservative misinformation” in the media, typically reserves its attacks for conservative outlets such as Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. It has also gone after more balanced outlets like NPR, as it did in March when a report on disability benefits didn’t align with its stance.
But like just about everyone else who works in media, the liberal watchdog seems to have taken a special interest in BuzzFeed over the last several months. It criticized its reporting multiple times during the presidential election season, even scolding BuzzFeed’s editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, for declaring Mitt Romney the winner of the first debate after only 40 minutes. (For the record, pretty much everyone agreed with Smith.) More recently, it published a report attacking Benny Johnson, a former producer for Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, who joined BuzzFeed’s Washington bureau in December.
But landing on the radar of Media Matters probably says more about BuzzFeed’s increasingly high profile than it does about any possible conservative bent in its editorial. The website gets its share of grief from right-wing media as well. Just this month it was called out by Breitbart.com for including three conservatives -- Orson Scott Card, Scott Adams and David Mamet -- in a listicle of “14 Authors You Might Not Know Had Bigoted Views.”
And earlier this year, BuzzFeed was slammed by the perennial conservative watchdog Media Research Center, which called the website a journalistic entity “wallowing in bigotry” after it posted “25 Gayest Pictures Of The Pope.”
You know you’re doing something right when you can post a picture of Pope Benedict XVI in a “furry little beanie” and still be referred to as a “journalistic entity.” How very BuzzFeed.