April 8th, BuzzFeed staff writer Arabelle Sicardi posted an article criticizing the Dove bizarre advertising campaign. In the next morning, BuzzFeed deleted the entire post and replaced it with a single sentence: “We pulled this post because it is not consistent with the tone of BuzzFeed Life”. It is not the first time, since BuzzFeed deleted more than 4,000 older posts that “didn’t age well” last year.
In the campaign, Dove asked women to walk through doors, which were labeled ”beautiful” and “average”. In the video a large part of women chose “average” were questioned and suggested to #ChooseBeautiful. From the copy of Sicardi’s original post, neither the content nor the “tone” was objectionable. Her original line was: ” You don’t have to be beautiful (or at the very least, you shouldn’t have to be), and not being beautiful doesn’t mean you’re average. Feeling beautiful is an obligation and a pressure — and sometimes a pleasure, but not always”.
The reason why the story was taken down is that Dove, owned by Unilever, is an advertiser on BuzzFeed. Although its editors do not admit and insist that “the article didn’t fit the site’s editorial standards”. It is ironic since in January 2015, “The BuzzFeed Editorial Standards And Ethics Guide” was published which states that “Editorial posts should never be deleted for reasons related to their content, or because a subject or stakeholder has asked you to do so.”
From this very incident, the BuzzFeed Life editors Ben Smith and Peggy Wang clearly stated that: “We are trying not to do hot takes, ” and “…not telling our audience how to think and feel”. It seems that we are about to see more “unbiased” contents on BuzzFeed.
My questions are:
As a news media company, do you think it is a professional journalism behavior for BuzzFeed to take back its posts after posting? Is it a good choice for BuzzFeed to stop any “hot takes”? If you are the editor, how do you deal with the “sensitive articles” related to your advertisers?