By Betsy Rothstein and Eddie Scarry
Buzzfeed‘s Washington Bureau officially popped its cork last night with a packed party at the U Street haunt Brixton, where a DJ spun vinyl records thanks to Bureau Chief John Stanton.
11. Trying to get anyone at the party, but especially Buzzfeed underlings, to trash talk Editor Ben Smith, in from Manhattan, wasn’t easy. Slate‘s most weigelicious reporter Dave Weigel (pictured at right with Michael Hastings), a longtime, intense Smith fan, remarked, “I think Ben is creating a good news organization in a tabloidy sort of way. They’ve captured what people like about the news. I’m a big fan of what they’re doing. I completely, seriously and unironically think it’s really good.” Weigel, in an unironic black golf shirt and jeans, looked in his element in the divey scene, sipping on a Hendrick’s martini. At one point he offered a rather complex tirade on the bar’s eclectic drink menu (we caught about half of it). At about 7:40 p.m. he said, “You know you’re in D.C. when some douche says, ‘You going to the convention?’” This came after he asked if we’d be attending the party conventions.
10. Buzzfeed‘s Michael Hastings proved to be quite the conversationalist. We anticipated having to hunt him down and wrestle him to the ground just to introduce ourselves. Not so. Despite a couple contentious emails he sent us back in June regarding a report on a Twitter fight, Hastings was a pleasure. “Sorry I was kind of a dick in those emails,” he told us. “But I knew you would publish them.”
9. Politico White House reporter Byron Tau and Zeke Miller got into a spontaneous argument for the sake of taking a more natural picture. (See at left.) We had no idea Tau could be so violent or that Miller would take it so well.
8. At 8:30 p.m. we ran into Roll Call HOH Columnists Neda Semnani and Warren Rojas. Warren on keeping his jobs amid the wealth of recent layoffs at CQ Roll Call: “They can’t get rid of us. We know where all the bodies are.” He called the layoffs a “slaughter” and added, “Tomorrow, we still have a job.” Shortly thereafter, Washington Examiner gossip gal Nikki Schwab offers an uncharacteristic warmish hello. And for that, we put away the ice thermometer. At least for today. Hey Nikki!
LOL! Meeting Ben Smith
7. Asked about working at Buzzfeed, Chris Geidner takes a moment to gush. “I love it. It’s totally fun and everyday there’s …. just then Smith walks up and tells us he has a kind speech prepared for when people tell him they hate me. Thanks Ben! LOL! Back to Geidner, who is describing what it’s like to work at Buzzfeed: “It’s being at a place where everyday there is something new and amazing happening. Everyone is so good at their job. Go look at the page,” he’s saying about a recent graphic that accompanied his story. “It is so fucking awesome.” BuzzFeed doesn’t have an actual office in D.C. yet and Geidner wasn’t about to tell us about plans to open one. “I’m definitely not telling you that,” he said. “It’s still TBD.” (Later on, Smith would tell us they’re searching for office space, but it won’t be a conspicuous one. When asked if it’d be located in Anacostia, where reporters might need a bulletproof vest, he said it wouldn’t matter: “No one’s going to mess with Stanton.”
6. Speaking of someone not to mess with, it’s BuzzFeed publicist Ashley McCollum‘s turn to come up with a bad thing about Ben. “I think Ben is as much an incredible editor as he is a great boss. Everyone’s ideas count. Anything bad about Ben Smith, you call me when you find it.”
Joining Smith were other buzzies well-acquainted among Washington media such as Stanton (pictured at right) Hastings, Miller, Andrew Kaczynsky, McKay Coppins, Chris Geidner, Rosie Gray and Dorsey Shaw, the video guy who, as was pointed out several times, could pass for Sting. McCollum was on the scene making sure Buzzfeed reporters mixed and mingled and didn’t make asses of themselves. In that sense, she was a success. She’ll return in a few weeks as C-SPAN gives Coppins a grilling. Speaking of which, we ran into C-SPAN Communications Director Howard Mortman outside the rust-colored bar at about 8 p.m. He made his cameo and gave the party high marks, but said it wasn’t exactly his scene as he headed home to his wife and kids.
LOL: ‘Bad’ things about Ben Smith (SWAK!)
All night long we continued to pester other Buzzfeed employees and party-goers to badmouth Smith. This was the disastrous outcome of that.
Politico‘s Dylan Byers: “He really doesn’t understand the Israel issue.” Buzzfeed‘s Dorsey: “He’s my dream boss. I can’t say anything. He lets me do whatever I want.” Kaczynski: “He’s a really good boss. He’s like kind of the perfect boss.” Stanton: “He doesn’t know what a Bama is to save his fucking life.” Rosie: “I think the worst thing about Ben is that he tries hard to be there for all of us always, and I’m envious of his ability to do that.” Zeke: “When I miss my deadlines he sends me the #19 koala,” he said, explaining that there is a series of disappointed animal pictures Ben sends in place of a formal complaint. Adds Coppins: “Animals are disappointed in you. It’s the perfect Buzzfeed way to reprimand a reporter.”
Party tentacles reached most outlets around town — HuffPost (Sam Stein, Sabrina (a.k.a. Sabrini) Siddiqui, Elise Foley, Jeff Young), USA TODAY (Jackie Kucinich), ABC News (Polson Kanneth), Politico (Glenn Thrush, Olivia Petersen, Byers, Tau), WaPo, The Hill, TPM (Evan McMorris-Santoro), RCP (Erin McPike), Roll Call (Shira Toeplitz, Sujata Mitra), Metro Weekly, and even The Daily Caller, which has notoriously had atrocious relations with Smith, was present, but not many scribes there received invites. Other conservative outlets represented at the party included the Washington Examiner (Philip Klein, Charlie Spiering, Nikki Schwab, Jenny Rogers) and Free Beacon (C.J. Ciaramella). Despite Breitbart.com‘s rabid insistence that Buzzfeed is an arm of the Obama Administration, both parties were repped. House Speaker John Boehner‘s Spokesman Michael Steel and ex-Maj. Leader Eric Cantor flak Brad Dayspring showed up as did Democratic Strategist and former Obama aide Bill Burton.
5. At approximately 8:30 p.m. Smith attempted a speech over the loud din. What we could hear: “It’s fun to see my friends from Politico here” and “I look forward to competing with them.”
4. Miller will be moving to D.C. but doesn’t have to relocate until after the election. He’s still looking for housing. Politico‘s Tau recommends his own hood, Columbia Heights. Tau says the resurrection of a Target and Best Buy has made the area a safe place to live.
LMAO: Awkward Encounters
3. Among the first people we saw was The Daily Caller‘s Michelle Fields (at left) in a tight bright red dress paired with, of course, the wood shop glasses. She approached mid-evening for introductions. All very civil. What wasn’t civil was our interaction with the Dweebmeister himself Ben Freed of DCist, who has trashed FBDC on countless occasions, which is perfectly acceptable, but don’t expect hugs. While we were chatting with The Atlantic Wire’s exceedingly polite John Hudson, he got right up in my left eye and wouldn’t leave. Finally, me: “WHAT DO YOU WANT?!” Needless to say, the rest of that didn’t go well and Hudson was a little horrified. And this: Jeff Kearns (reeking of Bourbon) of Bloomberg approaches NJ Publicist Taylor West and acts like they’ve known each other from childhood. It was a first meeting, which Kearns struggled to understand even after Taylor called him “Tim.” Tim. Jeff. Is there a difference?
OMG: Coppins wife is preggers; FAIL: Coppins and McCollum flopped on a high five
2. Making the rounds we chatted with Coppins and McCollum. We asked if “McKay Coppins” is, in fact, his real name. He assured us it is and admitted to being teased about it in grade school. “But now it’s great because it’s very SEO friendly,” he said. “Not that it matters now that things are moving from search to social,” he added. At this, McCollum threw her hand up to mimick the motion of cracking a whip. “Yeah! On message!” she said. Coppins mistook the motion as an invitation for a high five. Putting his hand up to meet McCollum’s he missed. All agreed it was perfect GIF material. More news on Coppins: He’s been invited to move to Washington from New York. He hasn’t made up his mind yet, largely because he’s considering his wife’s needs. He let slip that she’s three months pregnant. Congratulations!
Love is in the air?
1. We heard from one buzzy who preferred to remain anonymous that Dorsey, the Sting doppelganger, was hit on by a bartender. After the female bartender told Shaw who he resembled, he answered “I’ll take it.” The bartender replied, “I’ll take it, too.”
More pictures after the jump…