Virginia Hughes, a contributing editor at Popular Science and Matter and the author of the Only Human blog at National Geographic, has been named science editor at BuzzFeed News, the news and entertainment site that claims a global audience of more than 150 million.
Hughes will be establishing a health and science desk that will consist of approximately five reporters, according to an email from BuzzFeed. A science staff of that size will catapult BuzzFeed News into the top tier of science news sites by sheer size alone. It won’t have the largest staff of science reporters, but it will be among the largest. And if Hughes can hire people as talented as she is, BuzzFeed News will be a force in science journalism.
Shani Hilton, BuzzFeed’s executive editor for news, said in a statement, “In looking for a person to lead a new desk of science coverage, we found Virginia, who truly understands how to write compelling stories for both science-oriented and general audiences. Her story 23 And You illustrates just how important, readable, and shareable science writing can be. We are so thrilled to have her join us and build a new kind of science desk for an audience that’s hungry for strong reporting and gripping reading.”
BuzzFeed won’t let new hires talk to the press until they start; Hughes’s start date is January 6th. But in the announcement, she was quoted as saying, “This is a dream job. At a time when many large publications are laying off science reporters, BuzzFeed News is putting serious resources into smart, hard-hitting, deeply reported science stories. I’m thrilled and can’t wait to get started.”
Hughes has been a freelancer science journalist for nine years, and her stories on genes, brains, and biotech (she studied neuroscience at Brown) have appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, and many other publications. Her work has twice been featured in Best American Science and Nature Writing.
I have no doubt whatsoever that Hughes will do her best to create a first-rate science staff at BuzzFeed News. The question is: Will BuzzFeed let her do it? The site is a mix of tabloid gossip and entertainment news and serious journalism. Hughes and her science staff should be clearly on the side of serious journalism. Science stories can be entertaining–indeed, they should be entertaining. But they must be authoritative and credible.
I’ll be eager to see how this plays out. I have high regard for Hughes’s abilities. BuzzFeed is lucky to have her.
She starts January 6th.