SAN FRANCISCO — CNN has hired a team of BuzzFeed reporters in order to better its chances of dominating the political news cycle as the presidential race heads into the home stretch.
BuzzFeed'sAndrew Kaczynski, 26 — along with K-File team members Nate McDermott and Christopher Massie as well as BuzzFeed deputy politics editor Kyle Blaine ― announced they were leaving the online news organization Monday and would begin digging for CNN on Tuesday.
In comments made to The Huffington Post, which first reported the hiring, Kaczynski said: “To be at the biggest name in news for the last month of what has been the craziest election in modern history is just a great opportunity for me and everybody on our team. When the opportunity was there, we made sure we took it.”
In addition to showcasing politics on cable, CNN has more than 40 staffers devoted to political coverage on CNN Digital.
The hiring amounts to an about-face for CNN, whose president, Jeff Zucker, told a Variety interviewer in August that online media organizations such as Vice and BuzzFeed were not "legitimate news organizations ...They are native advertising shops. We crush both of them. They are not even in our same class."
That comment drew a response from BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith, who charged Zucker with turning CNN into a platform for promoting Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. In tweets, however, Trump has called CNN a "press shop" for his opponent, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
“I guess this means that CNN has seen the value in doing the kind of tough reporting on Donald Trump that BuzzFeed News has been doing all presidential cycle and we wish Andrew good luck,” Smith said in a statement.
In the end, the K-File team hiring comes down to a simple desire to win audience. Likening the month before the contentious Nov. 6 election to the final days of a baseball series, CNN vice president of editorial Andrew Morse told TheHuffington Post that it "is trying to do everything we can to provide our viewers and our users with the very best reporting that we can. When you’re in a pennant race, you try to bring on the best talent you can to make sure your team is as strong as it can be.”
In a memo to staffers provided to USA TODAY, Morse notes that Kaczynski's K-File team "have perfected the art and science of mining legislation, voting records, video and radio appearances, open and closed records, and something that has never been more important than in this unprecedented election: an intuitive understanding of the trail each of us and our aspiring leaders leave on digital and social media." The team will be based in New York.
Kaczynski's collegiate penchant for unearthing newsy videos won him a fan in Smith, then at Politico. After Smith joined BuzzFeed in 2011, he hired Kacyznski, whose work on the 2016 presidential contest quickly landed scoops that were picked up by other news organizations.
Among Kaczynski's K-File team discoveries were a 2002 clip of Donald Trump voicing mild support of the war in Iraq, which contradicted the candidate's repeated assertions that he had been steadfastly against the war. Other scoops included a Census record search that revealed only one of Hillary Clinton’s grandparents had immigrated to the United States, and evidence of onetime Republican candidate Rand Paul plagiarizing his speeches.