AU MA Social Media

A class blog about social media.

BuzzFeed Borrows

Posted by chelseatufarolo on July 28, 2014

Today, it is common to see an online relationship form between consumers and producers. As discussed in class and previous blog posts, successful brands are expected to monitor their pages and respond accordingly to customer questions, feedback, etc.

In an editor’s note published Friday, July 25, 2014, BuzzFeed announced that one of its employees, Politics Editor Benny Johnson, was let go for plagiarizing phrases in several of his “original,” published articles. Although the site is by no means a serious news site, all content produced should still be attributed accordingly. 

What stood out to me most about this story was the method through which BuzzFeed was made aware of Johnson’s actions.

In our digital age, it is extremely difficult to get away with taking credit for someone else’s work. (In fact, the Mashable article detailing the incident even links to another article: “Use These 10 Sites to Detect Plagiarism”) However, Johnson’s transgressions weren’t made aware until Twitter users brought them to the site’s/public’s attention.

On Wednesday, July 23, Johnson posted the following tweets, criticizing the Independent Journal Review for apparently plagiarizing his work:

Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 9.50.27 PM

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Ironically, in response to these tweets, several Twitter users began to draw attention to Johnson’s own accounts of plagiarism. These responses were then compiled into a blog post, which prompted Johnson’s investigation and subsequent firing.

This turn of events is especially interesting because of the way Twitter had a serious impact on BuzzFeed’s reputation and staff. As future PR practitioners it is also interesting to see how BuzzFeed mitigated the potential crisis. Addressing a customer complaint is one thing, but addressing legal accusations, such as plagiarism, takes this a step further.

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One Response to “BuzzFeed Borrows”

  1. Buzzfeed handled the situation accordingly. I am not surprised that people would point out plagiarism. I would like to know how Buzzfeed monitor’s their articles and ethical standards.

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