BuzzFeed reinstates unpublished critical story about Dove ad campaign - iMediaEthics

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(Credit: BuzzFeed)

BuzzFeed unpublished and then re-instated a blogpost about Dove soap, a BuzzFeed advertiser.

The article is now back on BuzzFeed’s website with this note: “This post was inappropriately deleted amid an ongoing conversation about how and when to publish personal opinion pieces on BuzzFeed. The deletion was in violation of our editorial standards and the post has been reinstated.”

Ben Smith, editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed, tweeted this afternoon admitting “I blew it” by asking for the unpublishing.


Gawker reported last night that an article by BuzzFeed beauty editor Arabelle Sicardi, “Dove Has Women Walk Through Doors Labeled ‘Beautiful’ Or ‘Average’ In Latest Campaign,” has been replaced with an “update” stating: “We pulled this post because it is not consistent with the tone of BuzzFeed Life.”

Gawker rightly questioned if the story was unpublished because Dove’s parent company Unilever has “placed major ad buys on BuzzFeed.”

The article in question “was legitimate criticism of a exploitative marketing campaign underwritten by one of the largest and most powerful advertisers on the planet,” Gawker wrote. The article was subheadlined “Once again, soap is acting condescending.”

Gawker pointed out that BuzzFeed’s own editorial guide dictates staff shouldn’t unpublish. It states: “Editorial posts should never be deleted for reasons related to their content, or because a subject or stakeholder has asked you to do so.”

After Gawker’s criticism, BuzzFeed responded by claiming that the story was not removed for advertising reasons.  BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Smith tweeted “I didn’t know Dove was an advertiser til I saw the Gawker piece.”


Smith also shared on Twitter an e-mail from BuzzFeed’s Peggy Wang, editorial director of BuzzFeed Life and Emily Fleischaker, food editor, explaining the post was removed because it was based on the author’s own view and didn’t include any quotes from people discussing the issue.

“When we approach charged topics like body image and feminism, we need to show not tell,” the editors wrote. “We can and should report on conversations that are happening around something that we have opinions about, but using our own voices (and hence BuzzFeed’s voice) to advance a personal opinion often isn’t in line with BuzzFeed Life’s tone and editorial mission,” they said.

iMediaEthics has asked BuzzFeed why it didn’t just update or re-write the story instead of deleting it.

The pair claimed it was the first time the two editors have unpublished a story “and it’s something that came with a lot of back-and-forth debate.” (BuzzFeed unpublished about 5,000 posts last  year because they didn’t meet its “editorial standards” though.)

“The main takeaway is: When we write about news-related topics revolving around class, race, and feminism and other heated topics, it’s important that we show the conversation that is happening, or find other people who can give smart and valid quotes to make the point, or ideally, add to the conversation with something substantively new.”

iMediaEthics has written to Dove and Sicardi for comment.

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BuzzFeed reinstates unpublished critical story about Dove ad campaign

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