BuzzFeed on responding to interview requests: 'We can't reveal ALL of our secrets'

New York Post

New York Post reporter Lois Weiss' story about BuzzFeed's purported hunt for more office space contains a bombshell:

BuzzFeed, led by former Huffington Post founders Kenneth Lerer and Jonah Peretti along with John Johnson and former Politico editor Ben Smith, did not return 13 calls or e-mails for comment.

Thirteen fruitless attempts? The longest turnaround time I've ever suffered between emails to Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith is 44 minutes (an unusual stretch; usually it's one to three minutes). Press Director Ashley McCollum replies quickly or even uses the not particularly BuzzFeedy medium of a phone call.

It does not matter if you're writing about a happy or a not very complimentary story: BuzzFeed responds.

"We are generally happy to talk to the press and be transparent about all the things we're doing," McCollum tells Poynter in an email I received 24 full minutes after requesting comment on the site's policy of commenting. "But we can't reveal ALL of our secrets."

Here is a not-comprehensive list of examples I could find of BuzzFeed not going on the record:

• "BuzzFeed declined to comment, but is looking into the matter." — Cameron Scott, Social Times, Oct. 17, 2012

• "Sites including BuzzFeed, which has been widely thought of as a pioneer in the native field, declined to comment this morning on its sponsored post strategy and standards, perhaps a sign that many are reluctant to weigh in on a still-emergent process." — Charlie Warzel, AdWeek, Jan. 15, 2013

• "Smith did not comment on ongoing rumors that Jonah Peretti is planning to replace him with Horse of Horse ebooks." — Max Read, Gawker, Feb. 21, 2012

• "Ben Smith, BuzzFeed editor, declined to comment about the apparent mess you and Stuart have made here, on the grounds that the story is still being reported." — Erik Wemple, The Washington Post, Feb. 26, 2013

• "BuzzFeed was invited to participate in the segment but declined -- which Greenwald called a "cowardly" move" — Danny Shea, The Huffington Post, Feb. 26, 2013

• "Dave Stopera did not respond to an email requesting comment. BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith declined immediate comment." — Philip Bump, The Atlantic Wire, March 8, 2013

Please note: The Twitter feed of Atlantic Politics Channel Editor David A. Graham is nearly as good a source of story ideas as Reddit:


  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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