The mainstream media and alternative online media, such as BuzzFeed and NowThis News, should remain partial despite personal political views and opinions. But it has become apparent that the media will look past journalistic ethics to inject their own opinions in views into their articles and analyses as the 2020 election cycle ramps up.
A recent example of BuzzFeed’s anti-Trump bias and overall left-leaning bias was their recent profile piece on a Chinese diplomat. BuzzFeed’s news editor, Ben Smith, wrote a glowing article about Zhao Lijian, a diplomat for the Chinese government’s Foreign Ministry, headlined, “Meet The Chinese Diplomat Who Got Promoted For Trolling The US On Twitter.” When meeting Zhao, Smith wrote, “It is a particular modern delight to meet in real life the intense and combative people you follow on Twitter, and Zhao didn’t disappoint.”
BuzzFeed called Zhao the “most interesting diplomat in the world these days” for Zhao’s pointed and critical tweets of President Trump and Trump’s foreign policy. The article covered Zhao’s defense of his government’s treatment of Muslim Uighurs in western China, which many Western countries consider an example of human rights abuses. BuzzFeed, for their part, included Zhao’s tweet defending the government’s practices with Muslim citizens was far better than America’s racial issues.
The favorable article did not adequately address several concerns that a typical journalist would have, such as whether the Chinese government is portraying itself favorably to avoid bad press, whether the article becomes a part of the Chinese government’s propaganda efforts, and whether to include more context about the Chinese government’s treatment of the Muslim Uighur population. None of these concerns were adequately addressed in Buzzfeed’s article, outside of a mention that China did not renew a visa for a BuzzFeed correspondent after her reporting on the Uighurs’ treatment in 2018.
Instead, the reader was subjected to a positive profile of a prominent Chinese diplomat who has made a living on trolling or verbally sparring with the U.S. government on Twitter. The article was devoid of meaningful information, outside of the diplomat’s aim to market China in a bolder fashion through social media.
BuzzFeed’s lack of concern for alleged human rights abuses towards Muslim Uighurs in the profile piece was jarring and disappointing. It appeared that BuzzFeed, in order to get a scoop or an interview, preferred to leave controversial topics for other outlets to handle and not find out the truth about the Chinese government’s treatment of its citizens.