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May 13, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:17am

Buzzfeed to close dedicated UK and Australian news operations with staff furloughed

By Freddy Mayhew

Buzzfeed is closing its dedicated UK and Australian news operations, resulting in staff being furloughed and stood down.

The decision to stop covering local news in the two countries has been made “both for economic and strategic reasons”, a spokesperson said.

About ten UK staff have been furloughed until the end of June and face redundancy when the scheme ends.

Buzzfeed News UK journalists put on furlough:

  1. Stuart Millar – editor
  2. Alan White – news editor
  3. Elizabeth Pears – news editor
  4. Alex Wickham – politics editor
  5. Emily Ashton – senior political correspondent
  6. Alex Spence – senior political correspondent
  7. Hannah Al-Othman- political correspondent
  8. Patrick Strudwick – LGBT editor
  9. Emily Dugan – senior reporter
  10. Matthew Champion – deputy world news editor
  11. Joey D’Urso – media and politics reporter
  12. Georgia Chambers – curation editor / reporter

Two of the journalists affected are currently on maternity leave – Elizabeth Pears and Emily Dugan, who won the Private Eye Paul Foot Award last year.

Patrick Strudwick won the British Journalism Award for Specialist Journalism in 2018.

Buzzfeed continues to publish news in the US and said it plans to retain some UK staff to cover global news for its American audience.

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Eleven UK staff will remain in total: six on the investigations team – including Alberto Nardelli and former BJA New Journalist of the Year Richard Holmes – two on social news and three on celebrity news.

The move comes as the global news industry is facing an advertising downturn caused by the coronavirus crisis, with thousands of staff put on furlough in the UK alone and some titles having been suspended.

Buzzfeed News, which launched in the US in 2011 and expanded to the UK in 2013, is dependent on advertising as its main source of income.

The digital-only news outfit made a loss of £9.4m in the UK in 2018, with turnover down nearly £12m.

A Buzzfeed spokesperson said: “Both for economic and strategic reasons, we are going to focus on news that hits big in the United States during this difficult period.

“Therefore, we will notify staff in the UK and Australia that we are not planning to cover local news in those countries.

“We will be consulting with employees on our plans regarding furloughs and stand-downs in these regions.

“In the UK, we still plan on retaining some employees who are focused on news with a global audience — social news, celebrity, and investigations.”

A number of journalists and high-profile figures took to Twitter to share their sadness at news of Buzzfeed News UK’s closure. Celebrity cook Nigella Lawson said it was “very depressing – for them and us”.

Guardian columnist Marina Hyde said: “Such a massive loss. I’ve found out so much from Buzzfeed over the past few years, been informed and made to laugh so many times a day by their brilliant, idiosyncratic and dedicated staff.”

Former Buzzfeed UK investigations reporter Jane Bradley, who moved to the New York Times in December, tweeted: “…my heart is bursting/breaking with all the tweets about BuzzFeed & what a blow it is to journalism to lose such a talented, scrappy news team…”.

Buzzfeed UK has faced repeated staffing cuts in the last two years, with some 23 editorial staff made redundant in 2018.

Cuts to 15 per cent of Buzzfeed’s global workforce at the start of 2019 further reduced the UK newsroom to 20 journalists.

Millar took over from Janine Gibson as UK editor last year.

Ben Smith, the founding editor-in-chief of Buzzfeed News, left the news website to join the New York Times in January this year, eight years after helping to launch its US newsroom.

Picture: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

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