This is not an article about political correctness or sensitivity. Those things are relevant, they are worth discussing, and they do have some part to play in the conversation about how new media platforms like Buzzfeed (or Refinery29, for that matter) deal with "serious" news. But, when it comes to Buzzfeed's highly distasteful post on the rapidly escalating Gaza Strip conflict, we don't even have to bring hot-button topics like political correctness into the conversation to know that this is, in a word, wrong.
Image: Via Buzzfeed.
It's not that Buzzfeed has no place in this conversation. In fact, as Feminspire points out, it actually has some of the more impressive long-form and investigative content on the web. The site is constantly toeing the line between serious and silly, and the result is a brand that lives somewhere between a rock and a fluffy place. In 2014, when news isn't so much minute-by-minute as it is second-by-second, it's unfair and unrealistic to say that listicles about beach-faring corgis can't coexist on the same dot-com with original research, news-making interviews, inverted pyramids, and all the other things that make up traditional journalism.
But, because they do walk that line, Buzzfeed and other sites with a similarly diverse range of content need to think carefully about how they approach a developing situation that has global implications. Beyond the obvious fact that children are dying, what has happened in Gaza over the past few days is something that (along with the ongoing events in the Ukraine) will certainly leave a lasting mark on the world we live in. In fact, it already has.
The most grievous thing about that post isn't that it seems to make light of a serious situation — it's that it actively and transparently exploits a public that is looking for more information on a conflict that is not only plagued with misinformation but also runs deep, with roots going back through centuries of complicated history. Because we're dealing with clashing ideologies, the situation is rife with very, very different accounts from both sides, and that makes a clear-cut primer sound even more appealing to the masses. That's what Buzzfeed claimed to give, and while we personally are in no place to make a bold statement against enticing readers with clicky headlines and social-media copy, this goes too far. It's particularly frustrating because, actually, a well-researched primer on the various issues at play would be so useful.
Yes, online media editors have to make tough, real-time decisions every day about what to cover, when to cover it, and how to weigh in. Playing with emotions that are already running high just simply cannot be, in any logical universe, the result of a reasonable, adult conversation about those editorial decisions. With so many readers, and such a fine line between just enough silly and way too much, Buzzfeed in particular has a responsibility to behave respectfully — and respectably — in this case, when people are afraid and in need of good, unbiased information. It's a disappointment that it chose this moment to shirk that responsibility in such a monumental way.
All that said, navigating the media landscape — even from traditionally trusted sources — isn't easy, and there's validity to the complaint that American outlets in particular are extremely reticent to cast any aspersions on Israel's policies and behavior. For a slightly less formal look at the situation from the ground, we'd recommend this Reddit AMA from an Israeli soldier — and this one from a Palestinian living in Gaza. Personal accounts, but illuminating ones. Oh, and also, this AMA from Al Jazeera's Gaza correspondent. Lastly, for a bit of back story, add the Oscar-nominated documentary 5 Broken Cameras to your Netflix queue.