Nothing makes this forty-something feel her age more than reading a Buzzfeed “article” or any article posted on one of those ubiquitous websites that blur the line between entertainment and news. Even more confusing is when the reporter becomes the story; sometimes to the point that they barely cover the issue on which they’ve been assigned to report.
Consider this piece by Buzzfeed “writer” Kaelin Tully on celebrity chef Bobby Flay. I thought she might cover his restaurant empire or delve into how his recent and very messy divorce has been a public relations nightmare and how it’s impacted his business. Perhaps she’d discover the secret sauce behind his successful and expanding chain of burger restaurants. Perhaps she’d include a recipe or a video of him cooking.
Instead, in “I Hung Out With Bobby Flay For A Day And It Was Stupendous,” Tully offers a series of selfies and short quips – not about Flay, but about herself. Entirely. In fact, Tully is so caught up in her own awesomeness that she barely mentions Bobby Flay (actually, she mentions him once when he notices her taking a selfie and says, “Bobby noticed”). The only other time she takes a moment away from telling readers how awesome she is was when she made fun of a total stranger sitting at an adjacent table (more on that later).
The entire “article” is pictures of the reporter. Here’s a rundown: the first picture is of her posing with Bobby Flay a year ago and includes a link to another article she wrote after that meeting, which is (you guessed it) more pictures. The next picture is of her holding a picture of Flay, then a picture of her walking to the place where she’s going to meet Flay, followed by a picture of her in front of the restaurant, and then a close up of that exact same picture. Then there’s a weird picture of her with some floating heads (don’t ask) then a picture of her with one of Flay’s restaurant employees.
Eight self-portraits later, Flay finally appears. But of course, Tully’s in the picture too. In fact, she is the central focus of every single photo that follows, with Flay occasionally playing some sort of comic supporting role. There’s one exception: when this bratty millennial trains her camera on an older woman sitting at a neighboring table. The woman is clearly confused and looks somewhat annoyed.
The intent of this picture is “look at this disapproving old lady who hates the cool hipster.” Of course, I love this lady. She’s the real hero of this story. She’s an everywoman—a symbol of the mature adults who are tired of the narcissism one now sees so commonly in our culture and media.
I’m not the first to notice or complain about this media trend and I’m certainly not the first curmudgeon who is annoyed by selfie culture. And perhaps I need to calm down and remember that most people see Buzzfeed as strictly an entertainment site. Yet, there is a growing segment of the culture that sees this sort of reporting as not just acceptable and endearing and fun and a little bit, perhaps, informative, but also as a replacement for actual news.
Flay’s public relations team no doubt rejoiced when they read this vapid piece of promotion. It offers nothing about the chef while being disseminated as an article about Flay. Meanwhile, we know nothing about Flay, his restaurants, the food he offers, his point of view, his passions, interests or plans.
But we do know a lot about Tully, which, after all, was the real point of her article.