Trump's relentless assault on the reporters who cover him has "breathed new life" into media, BuzzFeed editor says
Smith also discussed BuzzFeed's decision earlier this year to publish the Russia dossier
Editor’s Note: The Axe Files, featuring David Axelrod, is a podcast distributed by CNN and produced at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. The author works for the podcast.
President Donald Trump’s relentless attack on the reporters who cover him has “breathed new life” into a decaying mainstream media, says the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed, the popular social news and entertainment organization.
“(Trump) has singlehandedly…postponed the collapse of a fair share of legacy media in an interesting way,” Ben Smith told David Axelrod on “The Axe Files,” a podcast from the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN.
Smith said that during the presidential campaign, Trump took advantage of a “somewhat desperate, declining legacy media” by adeptly using Twitter to say outrageous things in order to be a dominating presence on their news coverage.
National nightly news broadcasts, Smith said, were once “on a long, slow, kind of genteel decline.” But now, “the President of the United States is freaking out about them every day. And that’s pretty energizing.”
During the hour-long conversation, Smith also discussed BuzzFeed’s decision earlier this year to publish a dossier compiled by a respected former intelligence official, but which contained a number of explosive, unverified allegations against Trump.
Smith said that BuzzFeed made the decision to err on the side of transparency with its readers because the current news environment, where basic facts are challenged and rumors reverberate rapidly across social media, leaves news consumers to distinguish between what’s rumor and what’s real.
“Our audiences are swimming in all kinds of information,” Smith said, adding that the traditional posture of news organizations to ignore a baseless claim instead of engaging and debunking it may now be outdated.
“I think there’s this impulse to be the gatekeeper,” Smith said, “but you’re standing there at the gate and there’s just water flowing past on both sides.”
BuzzFeed, he says, sees itself “not as a gatekeeper, but as a kind of a guide through that crazy, in some ways very polluted, mess.”