BuzzFeed gets Pulitzer nod for hard-hitting list journalism

Once simply a bunch of ripped-off cat pictures, popular website now features hard news, apparently

By Liam Britten, Contributor

Online news platform BuzzFeed’s early forays into serious, investigative journalism have yielded early results at the 2014 Pulitzer awards.

The website was honoured with a Pulitzer Prize last Tuesday in the category of Excellence in List-Based Journalism for their investigative piece, “Top 14 atrocities of Central African Republic Conflict as acted out by corgi GIFs.”

The article, while hard-hitting and illuminating, still managed to embed stirring prose in its adorable list of the civil war and its main players. One captioned image of a corgi puppy playing with a littermate read: “7. Seleka Rebels sure were ruff when they killed 18 civilians in the town of Bouar!” A photo of three corgis napping was simply captioned “3. THIS!” and was called “haunting in its simplicity” by one member of the Pulitzer Board.

Board chairman Paul C Tash was effusive in his praise of BuzzFeed’s work.

“I think this may be the most vapid article I’ve ever read in any medium. It lacks any real depth and glosses over one of the most complex and heartbreaking wars to haunt us in the 21st Century,” Tash wrote in a statement. “But on the other hand, it was shared 47,000 times on Facebook, so it’s probably pretty good.”

BuzzFeed was only awarded one Pulitzer for 2014, but could have won for several other categories. It was runner-up in the category of Excellence in Polluting Facebook with Useless Tripe and was a heavy favourite for the Joyce Dehli Memorial Award for Excellence in Shamelessly Pulling Content from Tumblr and Calling It an Original Article.

The first-ever Pulitzer win is a promising sign in BuzzFeed’s quest for legitimacy. The push began in 2012 when former Spin Editor-in-chief Steve Kandell was hired to bring stronger, more authoritative writing to a website famous for giving dull people inoffensive content to share mindlessly on social media.

“[The change in strategy] raised more than a few eyebrows at the time,” Kandell reminisced at a post-ceremony press conference. “No one thought we could take a website that was just a bunch of stupid lists and turn it into a website that is just a bunch of lists with three articles about gay rights in Russia. It’s a complete paradigm shift.”

When asked about what BuzzFeed had in the works for next year’s Pulitzer season, Kandell was rather coy.

“Believe me: our writers are already pounding the pavement to break the next big story someone else already reported on. Probably something about to do with Jennifer Lawrence and Republicans.”