Evolution of a JournOlist: Politico's Ben Smith Jumps to BuzzFeed

This is BuzzFeed today, a site co-founded by Jonah Peretti, who also co-founded the Huffington Post.

A match made in heaven for our infamous JournOlister, Ben Smith.

Don’t click that BuzzFeed link and laugh, though. What looks like a goofy pop culture site won’t be one for much longer. The idea is for Smith to hire a dozen or so political reporters and (in his own words):

…to help build the first true social news organization – that is, an outfit built on the understanding that readers increasingly get and share their news on Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms.

This is a natural evolution for the left’s number one New Media hitman. The only thing Smith and I might have in common is an understanding of the awesome power of social media to undermine and make irrelevant the MSM — not when it comes to information gathering and news reporting, but most definitely when it comes to narrative building. In a recent interview, Smith didn’t express it exactly like that, but the subtext is pretty obvious:

Twitter, Smith says, is “sort of draining the life from the blog.”

“Where people were hitting refresh on my blog because they wanted to see what my latest newsbreak was, now they’ll just be on Twitter, and I’ll tweet it out and they’ll see it there,” he says. “What I’m doing right now is just incredibly old school. I might as well have ink all over my fingers and be setting type.” …

The idea that Twitter could be a promotional tool, driving traffic back to his blog and to Politico, doesn’t reassure him. “I now have as many followers–40,000–as the number of unique visits I get on a slowish, average day on the blog,” he says. “At what point do I have more people reading my tweets than reading my blog? I don’t know.” (He actually has almost 50,000 Twitter followers, which may answer the question.)

What has to be galling to Smith and others like him is that social media allows anyone with a popular Twitter or Facebook account to not only have as much impact as a blog at, say, Politico, but also a faster impact. Moreover, one smart, well-written tweet or Facebook post can undermine and deconstruct a news article or blog post before it has a chance to go viral and enter the national narrative. This new reality drives the corrupt MSM crazy. The last thing these people want is to be wallflowers when it comes to what Americans are talking about.

This is why, for over a year now, I’ve written and marveled at the power of social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, to go around the toxic filter of the MSM. More than once I’ve witnessed national narrative changes occur on Twitter that took blogs a full day to catch up on and the MSM two or three. What’s happening is that through these extraordinary social media platforms, the American people are are having a conversation amongst themselves. We’re educating each other, learning from one another, sharing information, and exchanging ideas — and the MSM has zero say in any of it.

Social media is a wonderful thing for democracy, but leftists like Smith and his HuffPo pal aren’t going to just surrender to this reality, especially with the 2012 election coming up. They know where the action is, and they know where much of the outcome of 2012 is going to be decided. Thus, BuzzFeed is likely looking to expand its tentacles and manifest itself into a political cancer that attempts to influence, disrupt, manipulate and control our national social media conversation.

This is what the left does, and they’ve done it before. “Politico” itself was a cancer dropped into the World Wide Web in 2007, a huge MSM cancer disguised as an objective news organization that played nice with the right in order to consolidate power. Then, in 2008, Politico struck and revealed itself to be the most insidious weapon online against the right. It was a brilliant plan and it worked. The left did the same to blogs. Astro-turfed trolls were created in order to infest the comment sections of popular conservative blogs. These trolls disrupted and propagandized, all in an effort to ensure the American people weren’t allowed to converse en masse without their influence.

Now, for exactly the same reasons, the left has set their sights on social media, and Ben Smith leading the charge makes perfect sense. I don’t know how successful he’ll be, but HuffPo’s co-founder sure hired the right guy.


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