BuzzFeed News and the Listicle’s Redemption

PHOTO: The HMS Dragon near Gibraltar. Photo by Dave Jenkins. From Defence Images on Flickr.

This week, we return to BuzzFeed’s trademark format, the listicle. For this one, though, BuzzFeed News used it for something more informative than pictures of Arab leaders snoozing.

Matthew Champion’s piece Just What The Hell Is Going On With Gibraltar And Brexit?” uses the listicle form to make an old, complicated historical issue understandable and accessible.

Now that Britain has invoked Article 50, officially kicking off the Brexit process, Gibraltar finds itself in a confusing situation. Geographically, Gibraltar is on the Iberian Peninsula, on the southern coast of Spain. Britain has owned the land for a few hundred years.

Champion writes that in the wake of Brexit, Gibraltar’s future is hazy, thanks to a clause in some draft guidelines stating that Britain and Spain agree on any Brexit-related trade agreement involving Gibraltar.

Champion provides a concise summary of Gibraltar’s complicated history and the even-more complicated modern political issues surrounding it. He does this in what is essentially a listicle format without the numbers.

The sentences are in large, boldface type, and each one is followed by an image that illustrates the subject of the sentence. For example, the sentence saying that British Prime Minister Theresa May invoked Article 50 has a picture of Theresa May.

Overall, this listicle is easier to read than a big chunk o’ text. Champion avoids jargon in favor of clipped sentences and humor, two things ideal for an online platform. Someone who rarely reads the news would have no trouble understanding this article.

This piece highlights one of my favorite things about BuzzFeed news: accessibility. I don’t revile the listicle as the death of good journalism. I welcome it as a helpful tool to get more people reading and supporting good journalism.


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