If mainstream news organizations weren’t concerned before, they might be sweating a little bit now. Announced this morning via tweet (of course), Michael Hastings announced (followed almost instantly by Ben Smith and the BuzzFeed gang) he would be joining BuzzFeed to cover the Obama reelection campaign for the fledgling social news outlet.
Editor-in-Chief, Smith tweeted, “so excited I wrote a press release!” And BuzzFeed founder, Jonah Peretti tweeted that he was “SO EXCITED 4 THIS!” That’s how BuzzFeed rolls. Using numbers in place of words. It’s a brave new world, folks.
The implications however, for BuzzFeed are huge, Hastings, who is a bestselling author and who wrote the acclaimed Rolling Stone piece, The Runaway General, brings heavy reporting clout to BuzzFeed. More over, the hire reflects a growing feeling that more and more journalists are understanding the seismic shifts taking place in media and positioning themselves accordingly. With hires like Hastings, BuzzFeed begins to shift away from an experiment to become the real deal.
So why does this matter for political reporting? Hastings summed it up best in BuzzFeed’s press release saying, “it will give me the chance to be part of a media organization that’s breaking new journalistic ground, finding innovative and fresh ways to report the story.” And that is pretty much it in a nutshell. Anyone who has read a lick of Hastings’ work knows he’s a tough as nails reporter who can carve out impressive, sweeping narratives on tough beats, but what will be different. Two things, as we see it:
Hastings will be able to bring a longer form component to BuzzFeed. Perhaps they have no plans to do this, but it remains that Hastings is an author and able to craft a longer narrative, which, if done properly, could add a new element to BuzzFeed.
More likely, and more important, Hastings will be able to experiment and play with his craft in ways that wouldn’t be possible at Rolling Stone or other, bigger outlets. Hastings knows how to get access and he’ll be able to see things on the campaign trail that other reports might not. With the flexibility provided by BuzzFeed, Hastings might be able to pull back the curtain in big ways, much like BuzzFeed’s staff of young, intrepid reporters have been doing for the past two months. It may not revolutionize everything, but then again, it could. However you choose to see it, the hire is further proof that the landscape is changing drastically and people with serious chops are trading in brand names for the ability to innovate and try to stake a claim in a this new realm. The social web is becoming a commodity for journalism and we might be seeing the start of a media gold rush of sorts. Adapt or die, folks.
[image via nydailynews]