Bringing Some Humor to Hard News

PHOTO: Bernal Saborio on Flickr.

Before I start this newstrack, let me say that I hate Delta Airlines. Once, I was on a redeye from Los Angeles to Boston and they delayed the flight four hours because the pilot called in sick and Delta never scheduled a new one. Most passengers had boarded when somebody realized there was no one to fly the plane, and we all had to get off. So this newstrack is partly schadenfreude.

I’m looking at a  BuzzFeed News article called Delta Has Canceled Thousands Of Flights And Everyone Is In Hell,” written by Venessa Wong.

It strikes me every week how different BuzzFeed News is from other outlets. It’s online-only, which isn’t so strange, but it cements that online-only feel with its attitude. Can you imagine The New York Times running a headline like that? The Boston Globe? Maybe the subhead, “No spring break is safe,” on a day when an editor is feeling lighthearted. But if there were internal debates on whether or not to use the word “pussy” during then-candidate Donald Trump’s pussy-grabbing scandal, then I can’t imagine the Old Gray Lady throwing the word “hell” around.

The effect is comic, and that’s the point. It’s an interesting feature BuzzFeed uses across its platform, in everything from listicles to news. They’re using clickbait tactics on regular news stories. Nothing else in Wong’s piece is goofy—it’s a straight hard news story. But I was pulled in by the funny headline.

A rapid-fire look at some other elements in the article that BuzzFeed just loves: social media embeds and crowdsourcing. Instagram pictures of gloomy passengers waiting at airport gates and, at the bottom, instructions on how to get in touch with Wong if you have a harrowing Delta story. Once again, using its online structure to its advantage.

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