'New York Times' + Buzzfeed = OMG

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The two outlets are teaming up. But don't expect a corgi takeover of nytimes.com anytime soon.

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AP, Buzzfeed (image by Chris Heller)

Today, in a very serious and official press release, The New York Times -- the Gray Lady, the Paper of Record, brought to you from New York's Tower of News -- announced a new collaboration. With Buzzfeed.

So ...

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But also, just a little bit ...

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The team-up will find the two powerful institutions working together to cover the upcoming political conventions, via video segments that will feature Buzzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith and others among the site's political reporters. And the collaboration makes, initial WTF notwithstanding, a lot of sense: It gives Buzzfeed some additional credibility as a purveyor of Serious Journalism; and it gives the Times some additional credit for its willingness to dive into the LOLing underbelly of the Internet.

So, actually, really:

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And that's the point. As collaboration among media outlets becomes increasingly common, we'll likely see more of these marriages of complementary convenience. Jim Roberts, the Times's assistant managing editor, sees the videos as a way to tap into the spirit of the social web. "We're looking to fuse the energy and the social awareness that Ben and his reporters have with a lot of our traditional reporting strengths and styles," he told me. "I'm a big fan of Ben's work, and I've begun following, rather avidly, many of the reporters that work for him. And I'm struck by the way they approach stories. I'm struck by the energy that they throw into it, the liveliness of what they do."

So ... that means lolcats, right? I can haz political coverage?

Nope, Smith told me. The videos will definitely have a Buzzfeed sensibility, he says, but that sensibility will come more from the reporters themselves than from Buzzfeed's, er, Buzzfeedy bag of tricks. The segments will be zeitgeist-y, yes; lolcatty, not so much. 

"There will probably be fewer corgis," Smith says.

Though the collaborators haven't determined, in detail, the content of the videos, they'll be social in the broad sense, Roberts notes. Think stuff that, like Buzzfeed, is tapped into the pulse of the social web ... and stuff that, like the Times, is informed by actual reporting. "We're certainly not going to aspire to do static, news-network like interviews and segments," Roberts says. "We want a really good fusion between what they're good at and what we're good at."

And the conventions should offer a particularly good platform for that union. As their events play out, there's going to be a parallel conversation taking place on Twitter, Smith says -- "and it will be, I imagine, larger and no doubt more interesting than the three-day informercial that is a political convention." 

Definitely. But also: There will at least be some animated gifs, right? Right?

Don't count on it. Again, this is a sensibility thing. "I don't think that animated gifs are part of our vocabulary, generally -- although I certainly respect what Buzzfeed has been able to do with them," Roberts says. "We want it to be animated in the sense that we want the energy and the spirit and the knowledge of Ben and his other reporters. But I don't think we need gifs to go along with that animation."

Furthermore, though there's a chance that the videos will be served on the Buzzfeed site, the production will come mainly from the Times. "For what we want to do with politics and the conventions, we have a great team of reporters and editors and opinion-writers who we expect to be contributing to and participating in the video project," Roberts notes. "So I don't feel that there's a pressing need to be augmenting that. This just felt like a good and interesting and hopefully fun opportunity."

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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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