Social news website BuzzFeed is going Hollywood, signing up a pair of former Los Angeles Times editors and a high-profile investigative reporter as the cornerstone of a new push to cover entertainment.
Richard Rushfield, who ran the entertainment section of the L.A. Times website from 2005-09, has been tapped to head BuzzFeed’s new Los Angeles bureau and assemble a team of reporters and editors to cover showbiz. And Kate Aurthur, the Times‘ former television editor who was west coast editor of Newsweek/The Daily Beast, will write about TV, film and celebrities as BuzzFeed’s chief L.A. correspondent.
In addition, BuzzFeed reporter Michael Hastings, a national security expert who wrote the Rolling Stone profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal that led to his dismissal as commanding officer of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, will contribute to the site’s entertainment coverage as a correspondent-at-large. Hastings currently is covering the presidential election for the site.
The move adds another player to the crowded scrum of Hollywood news websites, and a well-trafficked one at that. BuzzFeed, which was launched in 2006 as a social news website that aggregates viral content and serves it to readers via search and social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter, generated 16 million unique visitors in September, according to Comscore. The company, led by Huffington Post co-founder Jonah Peretti, announced in January that it had raised $15.5 million in new funding led by New Enterprise Associates, with Lerer Ventures, Hearst Media, Softbank and RRE participating.
BuzzFeed’s editor in chief Ben Smith was recruited from Politico in December 2011 in a push for original content, starting first with a politics vertical.
“Richard and Kate are perfectly positioned to combine the best traditions of honest, lucid entertainment coverage with today’s changing web,” Smith says in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “Michael Hastings will be invaluable in helping us shake the foundations of entertainment journalism in 2013 as we did with politics in 2012. It’s the right year to do this and there’s an audience primed and ready for first rate entertainment content built for the social web,”
In an interview with THR, Rushfield says the plan is to combine viral-ready takes on big entertainment moments with serious reporting that will rival traditional outlets. The L.A. bureau will have about 12 editorial employees and be home to BuzzFeed Video, the site’s video team focused on viral content and led by Ze Frank.
“BuzzFeed has mastered creating real news for the social web, so the opportunity to expand that to Hollywood is exciting,” says Rushfield, who also has written for The New York Times and Gawker and recently penned a book about American Idol. “We want to create the kind of stories people will want to share and pass around.”
Rushfield will begin Oct. 29 and Aurthur will start Nov. 5.
“Kate is one of the great writers and thinkers about what’s going on in TV and pop culture,” Rushfield says. “To have her writing again will be sensational.”
Hastings will begin writing Hollywood stories for the site in early 2013. He will continue to write for Rolling Stone and other magazines.
“The most creative storytellers in the world live in Los Angeles and finding a way to cover entertainment in a powerful, shareable way is a real priority to us,” Peretti says in a statement.