Earlier this week, Buzzfeed fired writer Benny Johnson for plagiarizing 41 of his pieces from other online sources.
As I wrote yesterday, Johnson made news back in January when he cited anonymous Pentagon sources saying they wanted to kill NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. With Johnson now fired for dishonesty, we can no longer assume that Buzzfeed had in place sufficient editorial checks to ensure that Johnson’s anonymous sources were legitimate. That doesn’t just put Johnson’s reporting in doubt, but also casts doubt on every serious news story broken on Buzzfeed.
A few minutes ago, Buzzfeed editor Ben Smith responded to my concerns, confirming that there had been an “internal review” over the reporting in Johnson’s stories. “Our internal review didn’t find any evidence of fabrication in this piece,” he wrote.
Earlier today, in response to a Tweet from Federalist writer David Marcus, Smith said Johnson’s firing and the resulting concern over his Snowden story “is part of why editors are so careful about this stuff at the front end.”