A recent topic of media interest is the Apple vs. FBI standoff over the San Bernardino shooter’s locked iPhone. Earlier today, the FBI said that they found their own way into the phone without Apple’s help. This prompted a New York Times article by AP contributor Mae Anderson that summarizes the debate until now. This same narrative was also the topic of a BuzzFeed news video, which was posted March 23. While the difference in post date is noteworthy due to the recent events, the focus of the two pieces is the same.
The style of rhetoric used in the New York Times article is much more formal and complex, composed with the intricacy of a press release. It’s longer, and uses its carefully selected words to dig deeper into the issue than the BuzzFeed video does. In line with its formal tone is its presentation; in its web form, the article still looks like a traditional newspaper piece, with black words on a white background and a clean cut font.
The New York Times’ formal, classic style and presentation has a lot to do with their audience. The following graphic from Pew Research Center data detailed in an International Business Times article describes who reads the New York Times.
Based on the data, it can be inferred that the New York Times’ audience is generally younger, educated, and middle-to-upper class. This accounts for the level of detail, complexity, and angle of their overall approach.
On the other hand, the BuzzFeed video wishes to give its viewers a much more high-level understanding of the issue. Its style of language is a lot more straightforward and is free of in-depth analysis, opting instead for key points and base-level facts. Its presentation is a lot showier: the video is complete with background music, visual aids, and graphical support.
These ideas hint at the core of BuzzFeed’s MO, which has put them at or near the top of new media news outlets. An article on the website of Harvard’s Institute of Politics explored BuzzFeed’s singular ethos, and characterizing it as “provocative” and noting BuzzFeed’s heavy use of visual aids to condensed content to “make it more interesting and more relevant.” Their Apple video article certainly matches this description. It’s geared towards more general, casual consumption than the in-depth analysis often used by traditional outlets like the New York Times.
In the end, much of the differences between the two pieces can be attributed to medium, but the New York Times and BuzzFeed still clearly have fundamental differences in their models. These differences in form and supposed credibility aside, I think that the New York Times article still does a better job summarizing the Apple vs. FBI issue than its BuzzFeed counterpart. The BuzzFeed video outlines the gist of the conflict, and its visuals definitely make it more aesthetically stimulating. While the visual element is advantageous, the same ideas found in the BuzzFeed video can be found in the New York Times article, and then some. The article’s stratification of defined sections, objective analysis, and formal language paint an effective picture of the issue. In addition, since the point of consuming either text is to extract its content, the article’s less elaborate presentation is helpful by limiting distractions.
- Associated Press (2016). AP explains: Apple vs. FBI _ what happened? New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/03/28/us/ap-us-ap-explains-apple-iphone-standoff.html
- BuzzFeed Staff (2016). What you should know about Apple’s standoff with the FBI. BuzzFeed. Retrieved from http://www.buzzfeed.com/buzzfeednews/what-you-should-know-about-apples-standoff-with-the-fbi#.hbJvaWvek
- Mahapatra, L. (2013). Audience profiles: Who actually reads the New York Times, watches Fox News, and other news publications and channels? International Business Times. Retrieved from http://www.ibtimes.com/audience-profiles-who-actually-reads-new-york-times-watches-fox-news-other-news-publications-1451828
- Choe, J. (2016). How BuzzFeed is like a Parisian cafe. Harvard Institute of Politics. Retrieved from http://www.iop.harvard.edu/how-buzzfeed-parisian-cafe