On Friday, BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith published a letter to readers announcing the firing of its Viral Politics Editor, Benny Johnson, who had been caught plagiarizing in some of his articles. Although Smith issued a heartfelt apology, it rang hollow given that it wasn’t written in the spirit of what’s made BuzzFeed so successful all these years. So since BuzzFeed didn’t see fit to BuzzFeedify its apology, we’ll just have to do it.
Editor’s Note: An Apology To Our Readers
Starting this Wednesday, Twitter users began pointing out instances in which a BuzzFeed writer, Benny Johnson, had lifted phrases and sentences from other websites.
After carefully reviewing more than 500 of Benny’s posts, we have found 41 instances of sentences or phrases copied word for word from other sites.
Benny is a friend, colleague, and, at his best, a creative force, but we had no choice other than letting him go.
We owe you, our readers, an apology.
This plagiarism is a breach of our fundamental responsibility to be honest with you — in this case, about who wrote the words on our site.
Plagiarism, much less copying unchecked facts from Wikipedia or other sources, is an act of disrespect to the reader.
We are deeply embarrassed and sorry to have misled you.
Benny’s editors — I, Katherine Miller, John Stanton, Shani Hilton, and McKay Coppins — bear real responsibility.
We have corrected the instances of plagiarism, and added an editor’s note to each.
We have also included links to each at the bottom of this note. We will work hard to be more vigilant in the future, and to earn your trust.
BuzzFeed started seven years ago as a laboratory for content.
Our writers didn’t have journalistic backgrounds and weren’t held to traditional journalistic standards, because we weren’t doing journalism.
But that started changing a long time ago.
Today, we are one of the largest news and entertainment sites on the web.
On the journalistic side, we have scores of aggressive reporters around the United States and the world, holding the people we cover to high standards.
We must — and we will — hold ourselves to the same high standards.
Similarly, the people who produce our immensely popular entertainment have raised their game dramatically, focusing on creative and ambitious work, and increasingly careful attribution.
We have more responsibility now than ever to get it right, to keep raising our standards, and to continue getting better.
*Daily Banter editor’s note: All GIFs were taken from unknown creators. Feature image via Gawker.