- By Uri Friedman
Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland.
In December 2011, when Ben Smith, the high-octane reporter and blogger for Politico, jumped ship to become the editor of BuzzFeed, a site then better known for viral slideshows and cat videos, many in the world of political journalism wondered if Smith had lost his mind.
They’re not wondering anymore. Smith, 36, quickly established BuzzFeed as a go-to source for political news, hiring a team of smart, hungry, young reporters and bringing the site’s signature social media-driven style to coverage of the 2012 campaign.
Now, with the hiring of Miriam Elder, the Moscow correspondent for the Guardian, to be the site’s first foreign and national security editor, BuzzFeed is aiming to do the same for world news.
The idea for the expansion, says BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti, took shape after the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings, when the site’s 60 million monthly unique visitors were looking for answers — and old-fashioned facts.
“With the Boston bombings, we saw something new,” says Peretti, a 39-year-old former cofounder of the Huffington Post and a new media pioneer. “People started tweeting from the scene, and the front page stats jumped.”
“It was a real eye-opening moment,” Peretti says. “They don’t have a legacy news brand, and they were turning to BuzzFeed, a site they visit every day, to figure out what was happening. … Our top five stories were all hard news content.”
BuzzFeed moved quickly, hiring Lisa Tozzi from the New York Times to be its first news director, and accelerating what were then still formative plans to venture into national security and international coverage (in April, the site made a foray into this territory by collaborating with FP on “11 Buzzfeed Lists That Explain the World“).
“We think that there’s this new central social conversation — on Twitter in particular — around international news and national security, and we think reporting is an important way into that conversation,” explains Smith.
So is BuzzFeed going up-market, in a bid to broaden its brand? Not exactly, according to Peretti: “We’re not going up-market in the sense that when we hired Ben Smith, a few weeks later we launched an animals vertical.”
Nor is there a strict business rationale for going global. “I think there are moments when people care about foreign news more than anything else,” notes Peretti. But then, “the week after the Boston bombings, people were sharing really comforting content,” such as “21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity.”
Peretti likens BuzzFeed’s expansion to a TV station or an old-fashioned newspaper diversifying its mix of coverage. “Sometimes people want to be entertained more than they want to be informed, and sometimes it’s the other way around. … The newspaper has the Sunday styles and the crossword sections — television networks have the sitcoms and the evening news and the late-night variety show.”
With Elder, BuzzFeed has hired a journalist who was the first Western reporter to cover Pussy Riot, the punk-rock collective whose members were later prosecuted for their provocative performance art.
“They’d done a shocking performance on Red Square that had piqued my interest,” she explains.
“Miriam’s a great reporter who both has covered big, complicated stories — everything from corruption to the failed political revolt against [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” says Smith. “She’s also a big voice on Twitter, which is necessary but not sufficient these days.”
Elder will be based in New York and will supervise an initial team of half a dozen reporters, including Rosie Gray — an aggressive 23-year-old former Village Voice writer who has already broken stories on Malaysian influence-peddling in Washington and Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev — as well as full-time correspondents in places like Cairo, Moscow, and Mexico City.
The site’s viral teams will be contributing the odd slideshow, and J. Lester Feder, 32, will be covering the international gay rights movement.
Elder, 34, has been in Moscow since September 2006 and did an earlier stint with AFP from 2002 to 2003. She has a master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, with a focus on strategic studies and international economics.
Says Smith, “If you can survive covering Russia and do good work there, that’s an impressive thing.”
Blake Hounshell contributed reporting.
A crash at Bagram; Bags of cash to Karzai; FP’s 500 most powerful people include Hagel, Dempsey; Tara Sonenshine to leave State; Petraeus’ comeback “like the invasion of Iraq”; Goodbye to Carter Ham, and a little bit more.Gordon Lubold
Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children.| Situation Report |
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at email@example.com.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |