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What I Learned from Taking a Tour of BuzzFeed

I had the ultimate pleasure of getting a rare, private tour of BuzzFeed’s New York City location with my Women & Media class.  Apparently, our professor had the hook-ups! We were able to hear from several of the online news network’s reporters who gave copious advice for our group of perspective media students.

            First, we were shown around a few of over 15 floors that make up the entire building, each of which is dedicated to a different department.  It was everything my classmates and I had anticipated: modern whiteboard walls, glass-paneled conference rooms, life-size cutouts of Beyoncé and Ryan Gosling, and stunning views of Manhattan.  One floor was emoji themed with each conference room named after a different one so there was literally a Poop room! The building itself was built in 1909 but they only just moved into this new location 3 months ago so renovations are still in progress.  I was impressed by how extensively each floor was designed, however, with open floor plans and row after row of computers.  It seemed like they had been here for years!

            On one of the corporate floors was the “canteen” which offered a selection of coffees and tons of snacks, from Cliff bars to fun-sized Snickers, for employees to refuel throughout the day.  One refrigerator was even stocked with Blue Moon and Stella Artois!  Company execs occasionally get together for BuzzFeed Brews where they’re updated on new happenings.  On the same floor was one of the masterminds behind the Tasty videos that have become some of their most watched content! For example, he comes up with an idea to cross two things like onion rings with mozzarella sticks and that’s where the magic begins.  Recipes just come to him on a whim and he usually films as he prepares it on the first try!  When asked what viewers seem to love the most, he said “comfort food that doesn’t sound too unhealthy.”  Next to him were some recently bought groceries that included fresh pepper steak and salmon.  Yum…

            After this, we gathered in a conference room to hear a variety of reporters speak and we were able to ask questions.  Kevin Smith, a senior editor, writes about entertainment and produces original content such as “We Searched for the Best Manhattan in Manhattan” and quizzes like “Can You Select the Ripe Avocado?”  He interviewed dozens of celebrities and including pro wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and supermodel Adriana Lima.  When I asked him how he comes up with new original content that is fresh and interesting, he said that looking at existing pieces and adding your own spin works well.  He said “I tried this and this is what happened…” stories pertaining to beauty, for example, are always a hit, something we at Her Campus can surely attest to!  He also shared that he did not go to grad school and, depending on the person, he did not always think it was necessary.  I think a collective sigh came from our whole group.

            After this, we heard from Katie Baker, who writes about “institutional injustice” such as sexual assault and harassment, Azeen Ghorayshi, a science journalist, and Tamerra Griffin, a breaking news reporter.  All three women were empowering, sharing their drastically different areas of reporting and willingly offering advice based on their experiences.  Azeen and Katie both put a huge emphasis on keeping an online portfolio of all the work, or “clips,” that you’ve produced by creating a website or blog.  They emphasized with us as college students and explained how they eased their way into the working world.  “Eventually you have to give up being someone else’s assistant,” Azeen explained, and they mentioned how your first job probably won’t be your dream job but it will be a step in the door!

            Then, Tamerra spoke about what it’s like to report on breaking news- she can write up to three articles in one day!  She put an emphasis on the value of original, first-hand reporting and talked about a journalist’s responsibilities, such as anonymous sourcing, when approaching sensitive issues like sexual assault.  When asked about her personal ethics, she said that she is an “empathetic and progressive person” but when the “journalist badge” is on, you must cast these qualities aside and focus on being as nonbiased as possible.  Even if the interview subject is at fault, the story must be corroborated and sourced, using specifically impartial language.  An interesting point that Griffin made is that, according to BuzzFeed’s Editorial Standards and Ethics Guide, they “firmly believe that for a number of issues, including civil rights, women’s rights, anti-racism, and LGBT equality, there are not two sides,” something she admires in her employer.

            Progressive qualities such as these seemed to be the norm at BuzzFeed.  All three women described their personalized workday hours that are tailored to their different jobs as reporters, indicating substantial work-life balance opportunities.  Quiet places for employees to relax and regroup were scattered about the building and the atmosphere was inviting, supportive, and creative.  As college students, we noticed that many of the employees were in the “Millennial” bracket as well and as we buzzed past, many stopped what they were doing to wave and smile.  Not only was this experience enlightening as a prospective reporter, but it made me respect BuzzFeed as a company and news source even more.

Take a tour of BuzzFeed by clicking on this video!

 

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Deirdre Bardolf

Old Westbury

"With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?" Student, 22. Long Island
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