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Fewer Cat Memes, More Hard-Hitting Stuff: BuzzFeed Gets Real With Investigative Editor

buzzfeed_lrgOnce again, BuzzFeed is showing us it’s serious about being a respected news organization despite the fluff pieces it’s so infamous for. That’s why the viral/social Web machine announced to the universe Monday that it’s adding a Pulitzer winner to its newsroom as well as an investigative journalism team.

The New York Times’ Leslie Kaufman broke the news that Mark Schoofs, previously of the hard-hitting nonprofit journalism venture ProPublica, would be heading up a brand new team of “about a half dozen reporters” for his BuzzFeed beat, which will boast stories alongside titles such as “10 Times Obama Said Signing Up For Obamacare Sucks Today” and “The 17 Worst Things About Being A Girl.”

Schoofs’ hire is one more indication that the organization is aggressively trying to shape its image so that they’re not written off as a source of blather predominantly shared among teens and young adults, and nonsensical lists, at least not entirely (for the record, I enjoy the blather and lists in small doses).

And they’re not just snatching people up for the heck of it — they’re bringing in the best of the best to their 130-person reporting staff. Schoofs has won the most prestigious honor a journalist can receive — a Pulitzer Prize — when he reported on AIDS in Africa for The Village Voice back in 2000.

Over time, BuzzFeed has beefed up its reporting chops — once with a foreign editor hire, its later maneuver toward longform and the addition of two business reporters.

“We plan to mix BuzzFeed’s energy, ambition and grasp of the social Web with the best traditions of American investigative reporting to expose wrongdoing, hold people accountable and tell stories that need to be told,” Schoofs wrote in the social website’s official press release Monday.

I’d be curious to know how BuzzFeed’s web traffic demographics have shifted, if at all, since their foray into more serious journalism. Will they lose the readers they’ve benefited from so much by introducing more impactful work? Or perhaps, the move won’t change anything at all. I mean, legacy media companies like ABCNews.com post plenty of Kim Kardashian mumbo jumbo, but plenty of people still head there for “real news.”

BuzzFeed is smart to do what it’s doing, but I can’t say that they’re where I go for investigative, tediously reported work. Maybe that will change with time. Thoughts?

And just for fun: a Storify of reactions to BuzzFeed’s hire, taken from Twitter Monday. Enjoy!

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