You might have heard about a BuzzFeed article criticizing a “condescending” Dove ad campaign (it asked women to walk through doors marked “beautiful” and “average”) — but in the past couple of days, you wouldn’t have been able to read it on BuzzFeed.
Well, now it’s back. The post was published Wednesday and taken down yesterday (replaced with the message, “We pulled this post because it is not consistent with the tone of BuzzFeed Life”), a move that looked particularly bad since Dove is a BuzzFeed advertiser.
Why the turnaround? BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith just tweeted an email he sent to BuzzFeed staff, which begins:
I blew it. Twice in the past couple of months, I’ve asked editors — over their better judgment and without any respect to our standards or process — to delete recently published posts from the site. Both involved the same thing: my overreaction to questions we’ve been wrestling with about the place of personal opinion pieces on our site. I reacted impulsively when I saw the posts and I was wrong to do that. We’ve reinstated both with a brief note.
Smith goes on to deny that advertiser pressure played a role in his decisions, and he emphasizes that the broader editorial discussion is ongoing: “We’d love your input.”
This is actually the second time BuzzFeed has taken flak for deleting posts; last year it deleted more than 4,000 older posts for not meeting its current editorial standards.
It does sound like Smith is still pushing for an editorial shift. As BuzzFeed Life editors put it in an email published by Gawker, “We need to show not tell,” rather than “using our own voices (and hence, BuzzFeed’s voice) to advance a personal opinion.”
Sorry to shove my own opinion in here, but I’m mystified by this sentiment. Yes, as the email says, criticizing the Dove campaign brings up “charged topics,” but having a thoughtful opinion on those topics seems more valuable than, say, this somewhat-less-opinionated summation of 13 Mall Smells That Will Haunt You Forever.