BuzzFeed Drops Out of White House Travel Pool Amid Cost Concerns

BuzzFeed will no longer include a regular reporter in the White House travel pool that accompanies the president on trips at home and abroad. The development comes amid broader cost concerns and financial pressures the company has faced in recent months.

“We decided not to continue in the smaller group that makes up the traveling pool, but remain enthusiastic members of the in-town print pool,” a spokesperson for the company told TheWrap on Thursday.

News of BuzzFeed’s departure was reported by the Washington Post’s David Nakamura on Twitter, Wednesday. In his tweet, Nakamura noted the high cost to news organizations that come with keeping correspondents as part of the regular traveling pool.

Also Read: NYC Mayor Calls Out BuzzFeed Over Union Talks: ‘You Insulted All Working New Yorkers’

“BuzzFeed has dropped out of the WH print travel pool rotation that follows @potus on AF1 for domestic and foreign trips. Such duties are costly for news organizations which pay for flights, meals, other travel costs,” he said.

BuzzFeed spokesperson Matt Mittenthal confirmed that the decision reflected both time and cost considerations, and that BuzzFeed doesn’t generate daily coverage of Trump goings on in the travel pool unlike many other outlets who did maintain a permanent presence there.

Mittenthal also added that the network had no intention of dialing back any coverage of the broader Trump administration or federal agencies.

The travel pool scaling back comes as the company has been buffeted by financial pressures. BuzzFeed — which remains unprofitable —  slashed 220 jobs in January 2019, accounting for roughly 15 percent of their domestic staff.

“Revenue growth by itself isn’t enough to be successful in the long run,” BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti said in a memo to staff at the time explaining the decision. “The restructuring we are undertaking will reduce our costs and improve our operating model so we can thrive and control our own destiny, without ever needing to raise funding again”

The company has also been rocked by internal unrest in recent weeks, as the layoffs have spurred a vigorous unionization effort from staff. Talks with management, however, stalled with reps for the still unrecognized union calling out the company for canceling a negotiating session.

Also Read: BuzzFeed Staffers Criticize Company After Management Bails on Union Talks: ‘Slap in the Face’

“We came to the table today ready to meet with BuzzFeed execs about finally recognizing our union. Five minutes after the meeting was scheduled to start, they told us they weren’t going to show up,” the union said in a tweet earlier this month. “This meeting was a crucial opportunity to make progress in agreeing on a bargaining unit, after more than 7 weeks of frustratingly slow communication with BuzzFeed. Instead, they abandoned today’s negotiations. BuzzFeed management is engaging in clear union-busting.”

“BuzzFeed has made specific, reasonable offers (and concessions) with the goal of voluntarily recognizing a BuzzFeed News union. We hope the union will return to discussing specific titles and positions – the subject of weeks of negotiations – rather than focusing on an area where we continue to disagree,” a spokesperson said in response.

The company also engaged in a public fight about the issue with the New York City mayor Bill de Blasio — who came out publicly in favor of recognition.

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BuzzFeed Finally Updates Story That Claimed Trump ‘Directed’ Michael Cohen to Lie to Congress

BuzzFeed News has posted an update to their story reporting that Donald Trump had directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, officially conceding that the Special Counsel had in fact said this was false.

“UPDATE: The Mueller Report found that Trump did not direct Michael Cohen to lie,” a new statement affixed to the top of the piece by reporters Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier said. The statement also directed readers to a much lengthier explanation of events by BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith.

“The series of interactions between Trump, Cohen, and their lawyers did not, in the prosecutors’ view, amount to Trump ‘directing’ Cohen to lie,” Smith wrote. “As a matter of what constitutes a crime, Mueller has the last word, and his characterization has the force of law.”

Also Read: NYC Mayor Calls Out BuzzFeed Over Union Talks: ‘You Insulted All Working New Yorkers’

“Our sources — federal law enforcement officials — interpreted the evidence Cohen presented as meaning that the president ‘directed’ Cohen to lie,” Smith continued. “We now know that Mueller did not.”

BuzzFeed’s report that Trump had directed his attorney to lie appeared like a smoking gun when the website published it in January. Liberal expectations quickly unraveled however after, Peter Carr, a spokesman for the Special Counsel, issued a rare public refutation of the story.

“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,” Carr said.

BuzzFeed promised an internal investigation but said repeatedly that they were standing by the story.

“I’m solid. My sources are solid,” Cormier told CNN’s Brian Stelter during an interview on his show “Reliable Sources.” “This is going to be borne out, Brian. This story is accurate.”

“What if the sources are just wrong,” Stelter pressed.

“They’re not. They’re not” Cormier reiterated. “I’m confident.”

Reps for BuzzFeed did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter. Smith’s note offered no apology or regrets over the reporting — something which caught the attention of Stelter and colleague Oliver Darcy in their evening newsletter. “Smith stopped short of expressing any regret for the story,” they noted.

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Tucker Carlson Calls BuzzFeed a ‘New York-Based Cat Blog’ – to BuzzFeed Editor in Chief’s Face

NYC Mayor Calls Out BuzzFeed Over Union Talks: ‘You Insulted All Working New Yorkers’

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio called out BuzzFeed management in a tweet on Thursday, saying the company’s strong-arm negotiations in union talks with employees was an “insult” to all New Yorkers.

“Memo to @BuzzFeedNews: New York City is a union town. You didn’t just snub @bfnewsunion yesterday, you insulted all working New Yorkers. To the union: This city stands with you. To the management: Come. To. The. Table,” de Blasio said.

The tweet was a rare public rebuke for the mayor against a private company in New York City and signaled the growing escalation of the dispute between BuzzFeed management and employees fighting for the recognition of their union.

“This process is not going to benefit from the involvement of a deeply unpopular mayor who has expressed an open disdain for journalists during his time in office,” a rep for BuzzFeed told TheWrap on Thursday in response to de Blasio. Reps for the union declined to comment.

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On Wednesday a meeting between union reps and management collapsed after management pulled out at the last minute.

“We came to the table today ready to meet with BuzzFeed execs about finally recognizing our union. Five minutes after the meeting was scheduled to start, they told us they weren’t going to show up,” the union said in a Twitter thread. “This meeting was a crucial opportunity to make progress in agreeing on a bargaining unit, after more than 7 weeks of frustratingly slow communication with BuzzFeed. Instead, they abandoned today’s negotiations. BuzzFeed management is engaging in clear union-busting.”

The thread immediately precipitated a storm of criticism against the company, with many of the loudest and most critical voices coming from BuzzFeed employees — on Twitter.

“Our organizing committee has been working hard and in good faith to reach a point where the company voluntarily recognizes our union. This is deeply disappointing and disrespectful,” politics reporter Nidhi Prakash said.

“Don’t cultivate a large, tightly knit team of some of the best and brightest internet content creators in the history of the medium and then just… piss them all off at the same time,” added senior editor Kristin Chirico. “This seems like… self-preservation 101?”

“This is so disheartening and a slap in the face” declared news reporter Brianna Sacks.

In a statement in response to their union, BuzzFeed management said they hoped something could still be worked out.

“BuzzFeed has made specific, reasonable offers (and concessions) with the goal of voluntarily recognizing a BuzzFeed News union. We hope the union will return to discussing specific titles and positions – the subject of weeks of negotiations – rather than focusing on an area where we continue to disagree,” a spokesperson said.

While union talk has permeated for years at the company, things went into high gear after BuzzFeed laid off more than 200 employees — or roughly 15% of the company in January. The cuts gutted the National News and National Security desks and left the LGBT beat with just a single dedicated employee.

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BuzzFeed News Employees to Form Union Following Layoffs: ‘It’s Not All Fun and Memes’

Snapchat Unveils Daily BuzzFeed News Show Among Several New Original Series

Snap Inc. is doubling down on original content, unveiling a new slate of scripted and unscripted shows on Thursday morning — including a new daily afternoon news series from BuzzFeed — as the Snapchat parent company looks to continue its rebound from a tumultuous 2018.

The still-untitled BuzzFeed news program is set to launch later this spring and will be hosted by a rotating cast of the outlet’s personalities. The show, like all Snapchat shows, will be between three-to-five minutes long, shot vertically, and will join nine other new original series Snap is releasing this year.

Many of the series look especially geared towards Snapchat’s young user base; “Two Sides,” a scripted series from New Form that focuses on a young couple working through a breakup and “Commanders,” a scripted show on high school outcasts that discover a life-altering computer code. “Sneakerheads,” another scripted series that follows three college freshman navigating the quirky world of Los Angeles sneaker culture. All three shows will be out by June.

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Snap chief Evan Spiegel, who has mentioned a desire on past quarterly earnings calls to attract older users, championed the app’s popularity among teenagers and millennials while speaking at the company’s Partner Summit in West Hollywood on Thursday.

“Our Snapchat community has fearlessly embraced so many new forms of self-expression. In the United States, Snapchat now reaches nearly 75% of 13-34-year-olds and we reach 90% of 13-24-years-old,” Spiegel said. “In fact, we reach more 13-24-year-olds than Facebook or Instagram in the United States, the U.K., France, Canada and Australia.”

Since going public in early 2017, Snap has struggled to find its footing, as underwhelming user growth and a continued assault from Instagram, its chief competitor, has hampered the company’s stock. A series of high-level executives leaving the company in the last year, coupled with a poorly-received app redesign, only added to investor concerns. Snap closed its first day of trading at $24.48 per share in March 2017; it opened trading at $11.23 per share on Thursday.

Also Read: Snapchat Snaps Back: Is Fresh Content the Key to Snap’s Longterm Success?

But the Santa Monica-based company has seen its fortunes turn around, at least somewhat, in the last few months. The company’s stock has almost doubled since Christmas after Snap posted record sales during its Q4 earnings report. Snap also stopped losing users during Q4 after losing a combined 5 million daily users during the second and third quarters of 2018. It had 186 million users at the end of 2018.

Finding compelling content that keeps existing users engaged and attracts new users is a key piece to Snap’s strategy moving forward — and the company thinks it found a few winners already. Snap announced that it is bringing back three series — “Endless Summer,” “Deep Creek,” and “The Dead Girls Detective Agency” later this year. Sean Mills, Snap’s head of original content, said “Endless Summer” — the Bunim/Murray produced docuseries following Orange County social-media stars Summer McKeen and Dylan Jordan — was a “hit series for” the company, “reaching over 28 million unique viewers” after being released last fall.

Other new shows coming from Snap this year include “While Black,” an unscripted docuseries looking at racial issues, and “Compton Dreams,” a docuseries looking at three up-and-coming hip-hop artists from Compton.

Snap unveiled its shows at the same time it introduced several new wrinkles — including a partnership bringing Stories, its trademark ephemeral feature, to Tinder. Snap users can now also use their Bitmoji on Venmo and Fitbit, the company said today.

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BuzzFeed Staffers Criticize Company After Management Bails on Union Talks: ‘Slap in the Face’

BuzzFeed staffers criticized the company on Wednesday after representatives for their still unrecognized union accused management of bailing on a negotiating meeting just minutes before it was set to begin.

“We came to the table today ready to meet with BuzzFeed execs about finally recognizing our union. Five minutes after the meeting was scheduled to start, they told us they weren’t going to show up,” the union said in a tweet. “This meeting was a crucial opportunity to make progress in agreeing on a bargaining unit, after more than 7 weeks of frustratingly slow communication with BuzzFeed. Instead, they abandoned today’s negotiations. BuzzFeed management is engaging in clear union-busting.”

While union rumblings have simmered at BuzzFeed for years, it took on new urgency in 2019 after the company laid off more than 200 people (about 15 percent of total staff) in January. The cuts — which the company decided to stagger over several days — gutted the national news and national security desks, while the LGBT beat was trimmed to a single staffer.

Also Read: Inside Facebook, YouTube and Twitter’s Struggle to Purge Video of the New Zealand Mosque Attacks

Immediately after the union statement dropped, BuzzFeed staffers across the company promptly tweeted out their displeasure at the news — calling out their own employer in blunt terms.

“Our organizing committee has been working hard and in good faith to reach a point where the company voluntarily recognizes our union. This is deeply disappointing and disrespectful,” politics reporter Nidhi Prakash said.

“Don’t cultivate a large, tightly knit team of some of the best and brightest internet content creators in the history of the medium and then just… piss them all off at the same time,” added senior editor Kristin Chirico. “This seems like… self-preservation 101?”

“This is so disheartening and a slap in the face” declared news reporter Brianna Sacks.

Also Read: BuzzFeed Contributor Posts ‘Do You Still Have a Job at BuzzFeed?’ Quiz… on Buzzfeed

In a statement to TheWrap, BuzzFeed said they hoped the union would continue to negotiate.

“BuzzFeed has made specific, reasonable offers (and concessions) with the goal of voluntarily recognizing a BuzzFeed News union. We hope the union will return to discussing specific titles and positions – the subject of weeks of negotiations – rather than focusing on an area where we continue to disagree,” a spokesperson said.

BuzzFeed also responded internally to staff in a memo obtained by TheWrap in which they accused the union of changing the goal posts.

“The Union sent us an email insisting that we drop our discussion of individual positions and move to negotiating a broad, abstract bargaining unit–changing the terms of discussion. This stance would have reversed weeks of progress and, we determined, did not set the table for a productive meeting,” Tanya Carroll, senior director of people, told staffers. “BuzzFeed has a firm interest in productively engaging with the Union and our employee representatives to reach an agreement on a defined bargaining unit. However, the unit must be established based on an understanding of which titles are to be included/excluded.

Reps for the union declined TheWrap’s request for comment but issued their own rebuttal in a separate email to their colleagues.

“This email from Tanya is inaccurate in several ways. The terms of our discussion have not changed. We have never said that negotiations cannot include discussion of specific positions,” the union said. “Unionizing is increasingly the status quo for our industry. But BuzzFeed is choosing a path of avoidance and delays. It does not have to be this way.”

Our organizing committee has been working hard and in good faith to reach a point where the company voluntarily recognizes our union. This is deeply disappointing and disrespectful. https://t.co/yuvsciqyyx

— Nidhi Prakash (@nidhiprakash) April 3, 2019

I expected BuzzFeed management to do the right thing. This is unacceptable and disrespectful. https://t.co/gkK6adMRgE

— Joe Bernstein (@Bernstein) April 3, 2019

don’t cultivate a large, tightly knit team of some of the best and brightest internet content creators in the history of the medium and then just… piss them all off at the same time. this seems like… self-preservation 101?

— Kristin Chirico (@lolacoaster) April 3, 2019

This is so disheartening and a slap in the face and goes against the first thing we all learned in preschool: treat????????others????????the????????way????????you????????want????????to????????be????????treated????????

jfc. https://t.co/4lX2gcI6y6

— Brianna Sacks (@bri_sacks) April 3, 2019

My deskmate @juliareinstein literally used a comp day (earned from working weekends for no extra pay) to attend this meeting and then was stood up by BuzzFeed execs https://t.co/VbsDctXXe2

— Amber Jamieson (@ambiej) April 3, 2019

BuzzFeed Execs need to do better. Like now. https://t.co/3mC14kazbC

— Ashley C. Ford (@iSmashFizzle) April 4, 2019

BuzzFeed stood up their staff today when they had directly told us they were excited to engage in productive discussions about the union. These actions are contradictory and illogical. Here’s our thread detailing what happened today: https://t.co/x25xDVbXYf

— Ema O’Connor (@o_ema) April 3, 2019

We’ve made essentially no progress on voluntary recognition of our union. This is the 51st day—7 weeks!—since we went public. BuzzFeed is “surface bargaining”—leaving just enough of a paper trail that they can say they’re negotiating and playing ball, when they really are not. https://t.co/BtouL7EXKj

— Davey Alba (@daveyalba) April 3, 2019

I don’t understand how BuzzFeed’s management think this is going to end. They staffed a News division full of passionate, whip-smart, tenacious journalists, so it should come as no surprise that those same people are unimpressed and undeterred by obfuscation and delay. https://t.co/0LvL2Ni2Ak

— Adam B. Vary (@adambvary) April 3, 2019

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BuzzFeed News Employees to Form Union Following Layoffs: ‘It’s Not All Fun and Memes’

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Tucker Carlson Calls BuzzFeed a ‘New York-Based Cat Blog’ – to BuzzFeed Editor in Chief’s Face

Fox News host Tucker Carlson dug in for a weedy and technical interview with BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith on Monday night, but before Smith even spoke a word, Carlson offered a lengthy monologue for his viewers deriding the website as a “cat blog.”

“Not so long ago, America had prestige media outlets. Harvard graduates literally went to work for Newsweek rather than private equity. Not anymore,” Carlson said. “Teen Vogue now has a news division, and so does a New York-based cat blog called BuzzFeed.”

Carlson then spent a lot of time driving home the point that BuzzFeed spent a lot of time writing about cats.

Also Read: Tucker Carlson Nixes Pretaped Interview With Guest He Called a ‘F-ing Moron’

“When a BuzzFeed headline commands you to ‘Stop everything and watch this cat who loves the ocean,’ you do. You stop everything and you watch that cat,” Carlson added, flashing headlines across the screen. “When BuzzFeed offers one of its trademark cat quizzes, you dutifully take the quiz. What kind of purrsonality does your cat actually have? Or how cat are you? Take this quiz. Meow!”

A rep for BuzzFeed did not immediately respond to request for comment from TheWrap.

When Carlson and Smith finally got into their interview, which focused on the website’s reporting on Michael Cohen and whether he was instructed by Trump to lie to Congress, Smith openly complained about not having enough time to explain the broader story to viewers because Carlson spent too much of his monologue talking about cats.

Also Read: White Tucker Carlson Guest Says African-Americans ‘Need to Move on’ From Slavery (Video)

“Can I just tell the story to your audience here that we talk about, because this is the story at the heart of this whole thing,” Smith said.

“No, because we don’t have enough time,” Carlson responded.

“You spent a lot of time talking about cats. Can I just talk for two minutes about the Trump Tower Moscow?”

The answer though was still no, and Carlson redirected the conversation to Smith and BuzzFeed’s decision to publish the Steele dossier, which raised eyebrows at the time because much of it was unverified at the time.

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BuzzFeed Reverses Course, Will Reimburse Laid-Off US Workers for Paid Time Off

In a swift reversal, BuzzFeed announced Monday evening that they would in fact pay out unused paid time off and comp days to all their departing U.S. employees. The company, which recently let go 15 percent of its work force — totaling over 200 people — had originally planned to extend the benefit only to California-based employees and only then because they were required by law.

“After meeting with the BF News Staff Council today we have decided to pay our earned and unused PTO and comp days as part of the severance packages for U.S. employees impacted by these layoffs in states where this is not required by law,” BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti told staff in an evening email. “This change will be covered by an addendum to the separation agreements for those outside of CA.”

Hands were largely tied among management on Monday after more than 350 current and former BuzzFeed staff began circulating a Medium post demanding that the company pay out. With dozens of prominent BuzzFeed personalities tweeting out the link, it swiftly became a national trend.

Also Read: BuzzFeed Contributor Posts ‘Do You Still Have a Job at BuzzFeed?’ Quiz… on Buzzfeed

“BuzzFeed is refusing to pay out earned, accrued, and vested paid time off for almost all U.S. employees who have been laid off. They will only pay out PTO to employees in California, where the law requires it,” the petition read. “Employers absolutely can pay out PTO - and often do. It is a choice, and for a company that has always prided itself on treating its employees well, we unequivocally believe it is the only justifiable choice.”

BuzzFeed management had initially resisted handing out the perk to its notably non-unionized staff. In an original response to the petition, the company’s HR chief Lenke Taylor warned of “tradeoffs.” It’s unclear what those were or what form they will take given the company’s change of heart.

Also Read: BuzzFeed Staffers Demand Company Pay Out Paid Time Off to Laid Off Employees

A rep for BuzzFeed did not immediately respond to request for clarification from TheWrap.

The PTO decision is a small silver lining for journalists and media employees who suffered one of the most brutal round of layoffs in recent memory last week. In addition to BuzzFeed, HuffPost shed at least 20 employees in editorial, with major cuts also coming to Gannett’s papers around the country. CNN estimated that a 1,000 media jobs disappeared last week alone.

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