Buzzfeed political editor Mark Di Stefano told Macleay journalism students there’s much more to Buzzfeed these days than listicals, celebrity stories and cats.
“There’s not one Buzzfeed, there’s many Buzzfeeds,” says Di Stefano. “We are not just Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, we’re not just cats – we are many things.”
The energetic news junkie admits to reaching for his phone as soon as he wakes and using it consistently throughout the day rather than relying on traditional news channels, joking about how this freaks out older generations.
“When I wake up in the morning, I don’t turn the TV on. Literally what I do is I slide open my phone … and I open Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, E-mail, in that order,” Di Stefano says. “Social media is like a news agency.”
Di Stefano also encourages non-traditional ways for students to enter the competitive media industry.
“I went through the back door, which is not a euphemism,” he says. “Literally my first job at the ABC was fetching (ABC presenter) Juanita Phillips’ dry cleaning and I did her auto cue for the first three weeks. Jeremy Fernandez; I used to make sure his suits were dry cleaned, and this is genuinely what my first job in journalism was.”
Di Stefano eventually got his break working as a general audio rounds reporter for ABC in Sydney, before making the move to the Northern Territory as a TV and radio reporter at ABC News, where he says he learned what a good story is – the most important thing about working for Buzzfeed.
He has written many political stories for Buzzfeed, making them engaging for a younger audience, such as the infamous piece ‘We asked Peter Dutton the same question seven times and it pissed him off‘.
While attending a press conference about illegal cigarettes, Di Stefano took a different direction for his Buzzfeed story.
“Technically, that’s not the story. The story is, there was a boat off WA and Peter Dutton wouldn’t confirm it, so I went along and was just a massive shit,” Di Stefano says.
“And I sort of told the story, not with at the top saying, ‘Peter Dutton didn’t answer our question seven times’. I took people on a journey. I started with contextual information; you show people your process and you take them behind what is happening. You can be funny and you can make people laugh and you can sort of show what is actually happening at the press conference.”
This style encourages readers to make it all the way to the end of a story so they can access the widgets that allow them share it.
“The way we write for the internet is to actually make people interested all the way through,” Di Stefano says. “This story just shows you, you don’t have to write in the inverted pyramid [style].”
In addition to reporting for Buzzfeed, Di Stefano is active on Twitter and has published a book titled “What a time to be alive: that and other lies of the 2016 campaign.” The book documents Di Stefano’s experience as a reporter during the double dissolution. – Ashleigh Cant.
Picture of Mark Di Stefano addressing journalism students at Macleay College by Noel Fisher.