ABC editorial director Alan Sunderland has defended the public broadcaster's new youth-focused website ABC Life, following claims it was taking on BuzzFeed's editorial style, while also "dumbing down" its reporting.
Sunderland disputed the notion that the ABC was about to launch “a replica version of Buzzfeed” to produce the kind of content that does well on commercial sites.
"What’s happened to editorial standards at the ABC? I thought. Why are we dumbing down our content to produce tabloid-style rubbish?" Sunderland said in a statement.
"It’s not true. It’s not happening. And while I am more than happy for the ABC to be criticised and held to account for what it is doing, I am less impressed at those who attack us for something we are not even doing at all."
Journalists from fellow youth media websites Junkee and Pedestrian, quickly leapt to the defence of BuzzFeed, stating that the ABC did not have to draw ties between poor journalism and the site while trying to defend itself.
err in recent years i’ve watched buzzfeed australia deliver some of the best journalism i’ve ever seen. way to through a bunch of talented young journos under a bus for literally no reason at all... 😕 https://t.co/1aM9xKhOF3— chloe sargeant (@chlosarge) August 6, 2018
You can defend ABC Life without shitting all over the good work BuzzFeed does here. I would have expected better from Alan Sunderland https://t.co/nCPl0C4k7y— Rob Stott (@Rob_Stott) August 6, 2018
Sunderland was quick to respond, stating that he had "no particular beef" with BuzzFeed.
Second response I’ve had defending Buzzfeed, and fair point. So let me say I have no particular beef with Buzzfeed. But their brief isn’t ours and we are not setting out to mimic them.— Alan Sunderland (@asunderland) August 6, 2018
He went on to acknowledge that while ABC Life won't feature as much hard-hitting news or investigative journalism as other ABC assets, it is not uncommon for the broadcaster to develop "lifestyle" entertainment.
"It's content that relates to issues and ideas that won’t always make the headlines, but that matter to real people in real ways," Sunderland stated.
"ABC Life is part of a rich tradition that stretches back generations. Part of the ABC’s charter is to produce content that informs and entertains and that includes content of wide appeal as well as specialised content."
Last week the ABC also disputed the cost of the venture, stating it would be significantly less than the $8 million price tag that has been previously reported.
"While we don’t comment on internal budgets, Guardian Australia’s figures were significantly inaccurate," an ABC spokesperson said.
"The project has a small dedicated team and mostly gives existing ABC employees from around Australia an opportunity to work on an exciting new digital project."
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