Buzzfeed Reporters Are Not Allowed To Show Their Excitement About The First Female Presidential Nomination

There has been no presidential election in history that was surrounded with calm discourse and understanding across party and ideological lines, but even so, this election has produced a new type of heat as we’ve watched voters fracture during the terrifying rise of Donald Trump, the hopeful rise of Bernie Sanders, and the historically significant rise of Hillary Clinton. In keeping with this tension, Buzzfeed instructed its employees to be non-partisan, which is a reasonable journalistic request in itself, but feels pointed given the fact the memo was obtained Thursday night while Clinton was being crowned the first female presidential nominee of a major political party in the history of the United States.

The memo was sent to employees by Buzzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith, and was tweeted to the public when Oliver Darcy of Business Insider managed to obtain it. The screenshot of the memo revealed a dutiful reminder of the rules contained in the Buzzfeed ethics guide, which apparently includes “commenting in a partisan way about candidates or policy issues.” Doing so during the firestorm between the horrifying Trump and the less horrifying Clinton may prove more and more difficult.

After all, is it even possible at this point in time to publish a neutral piece on Trump? Can you really cover the race involving the first female presidential nominee without at least expressing some level of joy at the symbolism involved, regardless of your feelings beyond that?

There’s certainly something to be said about the blatant implications when a memo reminding writers of their pledge to neutrality is sent while or right before the first female nominee is being announced at the Democratic National Convention. The timing of it feels like a direct whisper to employees saying, “Please, don’t let the readers know you don’t want Trump to win or else they’ll distrust you. Don’t let them know the historic ideal of a woman in office potentially excites you despite the complicated issues surrounding it.”

“Readers are entitled to trust you less if they think you’re in the tank,” Smith wrote in the memo. “When in doubt, the ideal journalistic posture is: 👀” It’s hard not to immediately translate the side-eye emoji into a mental imagining of Lucille Bluth, it’s even harder to take a memo seriously that ends with an emoji. Of course, this memo was certainly not intended for public consumption, but these things usually find a way out into the world.  

But really, isn’t it more terrifying to imagine the writers of a given article are secretly hoping the next strain of full-on fascism will be voted into office? I’m all for some good old-fashioned Trump bashing from reporters every now and then.