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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Slugline and Buzzfeed

In the spring, Julie Moos wrote at Poytner about Zoe Barnes, the ambitious reporter on House of Cards.
Zoe chooses to work at the online news site Slugline. “Six months from now, Slugline will be what Politico was a year and a half ago. Everyone at Politico reads it because Slugline’s breaking stories before they are,” Zoe tells her source and lover, U.S. Rep. Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey). “Everyone’s a free agent, they write whatever they want, wherever they are. Most people write from their phones.”
Showrunner Beau Willimon explains the name Slugline by email: “‘Slug’ is a journalistic term with play on deadline. Also the ‘slug’ is what you call the locale and time of a scene in a screenplay, I.e. INT – OVAL OFFICE – DAY. And finally, we liked the pugilistic connotation of slug as in I slugged him in the face.” (Willimon also said on Twitter that his time as a columnist for the Columbia Spectator inspired an early plot twist involving a student newspaper.)
While at the Herald, Zoe pushed her bosses to let her post news more quickly and resisted the layers of editing that slowed the process. But at Slugline, she is surprised when her new boss says, “You don’t have to send me things before you post. The goal here is for everyone to post things faster than I have a chance to read ‘em. If you’re satisfied with the article, just put it up. … Whatever hoops the Herald made you jump through, let them go.”
Over the next few episodes, we see Slugline grow. The office adds desks and staff; it starts to look less like a student lounge and more like BuzzFeed. 
Indeed, Slugline does resemble Buzzfeed.  Peter Hamby writes:
“Fast” was the modus operandi at Buzzfeed. The platform quickly became a go-to place for posting opposition research and “quick hits” peddled by mischievous campaign operatives, at all hours of the day or night. A negative story or provocative web video could fly from the desk of an Obama staffer to Buzzfeed and onto Twitter in a matter of minutes, generating precious clicks and shares along the way.

As an experiment at the 2012 Republican National Convention, this CNN reporter and Buzzfeed’s Miller agreed to file their stories—each roughly the same length and on the same topic—via email, at exactly the same time. It took Miller’s story just four and half minutes to be checked by an editor and posted on Buzzfeed. The competing story showed up online 31 minutes after that.

[Editor Ben] Smith loved the run-and-gun pace. “Scoops are just the coin of the realm in that world,” he said of political reporting in the Twitter age.