BuzzFeed has dismissed a journalist after a social media outcry sparked a review of his work, and editors discovered at least 41 of his articles contained instances of plagiarism.
In a statement posted Friday, BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith said dozens of articles penned by reporter Benny Johnson contained "instances of sentences or phrases copied word for word from other sites."
Information was copied directly from Wikipedia, the New York Times, Associated Press, the New Yorker and the autobiography of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, according to editors' notes accompanying the articles in question.
Johnson posted an apology on his Twitter account on Saturday.
Launched in 2006, BuzzFeed is best known for its popular "listicles," articles that often contain short bursts of tongue-in-cheek text accompanied by pictures, gifs, or memes that outline a particular topic. An article titled "28 Things That Are More Useful Than Mascara" ran near the top of the page Saturday afternoon.
But the website began hiring more established journalists in recent years, including Smith, a longtime political columnist who previously wrote for Politico. Earlier this week, the website published a deeply researched and lengthy feature about the culture of TMZ and its founder, Harvey Levin.
Smith acknowledged BuzzFeed's humble beginnings in the statement, but said as the website transforms into a more serious news outlet, it must hold its staff's work to a higher threshold.
Donna Shaw, coordinator of the journalism program at The College of New Jersey and a former longtime reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, said she believes the fact that Johnson was caught highlights one of the positives of the era of online journalism.
"This is what comes of living in an age when not only everybody can be a journalist, but everybody can be an editor," Shaw said. "When I was a young journalist, it was very difficult to get caught."