BuzzFeed layoffs show its neglect of diverse voices

Media platform losing more than just staff

BuzzFeed announced they will cut down their workforce by 15 per cent.
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Last Friday, American news and entertainment platform BuzzFeed began rolling out layoffs which will eventually reduce the company’s staff by 15 per cent.

With less than a week’s warning, BuzzFeed lost a large chunk of its staff and some of its most valuable content. Many of the creators laid off were vital in sharing stories of discrimination, mental health, and diversity for the popular outlet.

However, not only was the site’s entire national news team let go—journalists who reported on international stories about sex trafficking, gender, and race—a disproportionate number of those laid off were women, people of colour, and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Branson LB, who worked as a video producer for the company, made touching content about experiences as a trans person and shared the underrepresented stories of others. Kevin Nguyen, another video producer, made essential media about Asian-American identities. In particular, the videos he produced about toxic masculinity in Asian communities resounded with viewers. Anna Borges, a writer and editor, contributed largely to the Be More OK initiative, which increased the production of mental-health related content for the platform.

After sharing the news of her layoff, Borges tweeted, “I will say of all my emotions, the thing that's f—ing me up most is how recently [BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti] asked us to come up with this initiative and write more mental health. I wonder if it'll continue now that everyone who writes about mental health has been laid off.”

In an internal memo, Peretti shared that consolidating staff and cutting costs “will allow [BuzzFeed] to be the clear winner in the market as the economics of digital media continue to improve.”

In short, BuzzFeed is prioritizing its bottom line over its capacity for change.

It makes sense for a company to care about earning enough to produce content and hire employees, but that doesn’t mean it should sacrifice its core values.

Many people assume that BuzzFeed exists to churn out mindless quizzes about Game of Thrones or what your favourite time of day says about your ideal vacation spot. However, BuzzFeed is so much more than clickbait—even though I’ll still click the link to find out that being a morning person will make my time in Paris “magnifique.

The articles I look out for on BuzzFeed are sometimes about celebrity gossip, sure. But the work that keeps me coming back to the platform is relatable stories for my generation—stories about millennial burnout, body image, and #MeToo discourse.

[T]he work that keeps me coming back to the platform is relatable stories for my generation—stories about millennial burnout, body image, and #MeToo discourse.

Kristen King, a current BuzzFeed writer, shared on Twitter that, “Folks who worked on LGBTQI issues, women's health, [TV]/film representation, and mental health [are] being hit in these BuzzFeed layoffs. These are people who dug into their own experiences and (sometimes trauma) for content and they deserve better than a 3 [a.m.] email.”

King is right: these creators do deserve better. Their stories not only inform privileged readers of the unfair realities around them, they also tell other disadvantaged consumers they’re not alone. But narratives of discrimination and otherness cannot be produced if the only content creators qualified to share their experiences are unemployed.

BuzzFeed needs to re-evaluate its staffing model if it wants to retain the authenticity its supporters expect.

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