BuzzFeed’s head of U.S. News, Shani O. Hilton has deeply shaped the journalist juggernaut that the digital media company has become in recent years. As the head of one of the youngest and most diverse newsrooms in the nation, she’s as well known for the great work BuzzFeed has published as for the extraordinary talent she has helped incubate.
How did you become the editor you are?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with a number of brilliant, warm, thoughtful editors in my career; including people I’ve reported to and people who have reported to me. I’ve tried to take the best bits of each of them, favoring directness, clarity, kindness, and curiosity during the editing process.
What are you working on now? What is at stake?
I’m working on guiding our newsrooms through a perilous time for journalism: the White House has essentially declared war on the media, and has tilted toward outlets that are more likely to be favorable to the administration, while decrying what they don’t like as “fake.” More than ever, it’s important we think about how access can be a curse, and that our work is about serving our audiences and illuminating the world for them. We did very strong work without much access during the campaign.
What is your proudest achievement? Your greatest challenge?
I’m really proud of the team I’ve helped build at BuzzFeed News (which I also named, some three years ago now). It’s not every day you get to work on something so massive and influential. The biggest challenge is making sure that we get better without losing the early entrepreneurial spirit we started with.
What do you hope changes or improves in your field?
I hope the press hangs together during this challenging time; otherwise, to quote Ben Franklin, we’ll all hang separately.
What does Brooklyn mean to you?
It’s a pretty great place to live, and as a Californian, I know I’m lucky to have found a corner of it that makes New York feel like home.
Who would you nominate for this list?
Ari Tiziani, Caroline Moss, Jamilah Lemieux, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Zoe Schlanger, Alexis Okeowo.
Learn more about this year’s 100 Influencers in Brooklyn Culture.
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Photo courtesy of Shani O. Hilton.