When I chose my little white slip out of the hat on the first day of class and read the name “Breitbart” aloud, I knew I was in for an interesting semester. If I am being honest, I had never even heard of Breitbart until that day, and just from the reaction of my classmates, I have never in my life related more to this emoji…
After reading through their mission statement, filtering through some of their stories and following them on social media outlets like Twitter, Breitbart’s goal as an outlet was very apparent: they were an unapologetic right-wing news platform whose one aim was to cater stories to that audience.
Barring any personal beliefs or opinions regarding their subject matter, I chose to breakdown my tracking of the site into three sections: consistency, effectiveness and delivery.
One thing is for sure, Breitbart is consistent in covering stories that their right-wing audience wants to read. As journalists, we are taught to leave our opinions behind to try and report in the most unbiased way possible. In my opinion, the only thing that saves Breitbart from criticism on this front is that they do not try to be a news platform that people go to for unbiased news. They say what they feel, and as opinionated as it is, that is what their readers are drawn to. If I can give them anything, they are at the very least consistent when it comes to their voice.
In terms of effectively reporting their stories, I think Breitbart has some room to improve. Most of their pieces read almost like a blog and are rarely differentiated by topic, ie. breaking news is set up in the same way as a daily story. I think news organizations are more effective when they find ways to alter their reporting style depending on the topic, marking some stories as higher importance than others so that readers have a way of filtering their news.
The outlet also utilizes one social media platform: Twitter.
I think this is advantageous in getting more traction on their stories, however, instead of simply tweeting out links, I think the site would benefit from offering other content on their feed as well.
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with effectiveness, but Breitbart’s delivery of their stories is almost lazy in my opinion. They often include one image at the top, and almost never incorporate any other form of media throughout their pieces. It was not until recently that I have been seeing them add a reference to a Tweet or even a video clip into the body of their stories like in this report about Ann Coulter having to cancel her speech at UC Berkley. We are in a time when things like video, Facebook Live, and social media are extremely accessible, so not taking advantage of these facets to improve their stories I think puts Breitbart at a disadvantage.
It was particularly interesting covering Breitbart in this political climate and with Steve Bannon as part of the Trump administration. I definitely saw how stories that were published on Breitbart as compared to other news outlets like the New York Times differed not only in language but also in the angle by which they were told (see my post How Breitbart ‘Breaks’ Their News for more on this) At the end of the day, Breitbart could improve on how they report, deliver and execute their stories to their audience. If they have one claim to fame it’s that Breitbart knows their readership and is unapologetic in giving them what they want to hear.