Go West, Young BuzzFeed!

Social news site plans to open L.A. bureau, beefs up entertainment staff

The BuzzFeed hiring machine is at it again, this time picking up some top-tier entertainment reporting in its westward expansion.

The social news site, which one year ago had no newsroom or reporters on staff, announced the official formation of its Los Angeles bureau this morning, bringing aboard former Los Angeles Times staffers Richard Rushfield  and Kate Aurthur. Rushfield, a veteran of the Los Angeles Times' entertainment section, will serve as bureau chief while Aurthur will work as chief Los Angeles correspondent. Previously, Aurthur worked as Newsweek/The Daily Beast's West Coast editor. The site has also signed on one of its current correspondents, Michael Hastings, as an entertainment correspondent at large for 2013. The assignment will mark a departure for Hastings, who is best known for his politics and war correspondence. 

While the move isn't surprising—BuzzFeed has its roots in viral content centered around entertainment, and celebrity content tends to perform well on its site, according to internal analytics reports the site published in August—the speed at which BuzzFeed is expanding is remarkable for the company that raised a $15.5 million venture round last January. 

"We just felt like there is only so much we can cover from New York, and if we really wanted to be part of the conversation, it's important for us to have a beachhead out there," BuzzFeed executive editor Doree Shafrir told Adweek. "We're looking to combine fun entertainment coverage with hard-hitting industry reporting."

But can BuzzFeed, with its meme- and gif-friendly audience, pick up the mantle of entertainment trade publications without losing its signature voice? Shafrir is betting that the site can by capitalizing on the same formula that has helped BuzzFeed's politics coverage take root. "One of the things that we're pretty emphatic about that will carry over to L.A. is that we don't check boxes and don't write stories because we feel we 'should.' What will differentiate our coverage is that we'll be writing stories that we're passionate about," Shafrir said. "We want to figure out what plays well on social but also want to make sure that everything we do forwards the narrative of Hollywood, and adds to the story arc of the entertainment industry."

The bureau plans to kick off in early November, with Rushfield starting Oct. 29 and Aurthur coming aboard Nov. 5. BuzzFeed says the site plans to do some hiring in the coming weeks and months to fill out the bureau with more reporting talent.