On Howard Kurtz’s Reliable Sources yesterday, political video prodigy Andrew Kaczynski announced he will be joining Ben Smith‘s team at BuzzFeed (BZFD), beginning January 1.
A 22 year-old history student at St. John’s University, Mr. Kaczynski is as cubby as they come. But he’s already made a name for himself on the 2012 campaign beat with unseen video footage of primary candidates spouting hypocritical views, which he digs out of C-SPAN’s massive online archive.
“When I’m not with my girlfriend, or in class, or doing homework, it is really what I spend most of my time doing,” Mr. Kaczynski told Off the Record in an e-mail.
He unearthed a clip of Newt Gingrich supporting a health insurance mandate alongside Hilary Clinton and a choice pot-meet-kettle moment in which Mitt Romney decried John Kerry‘s flip-flopping, among others. The videos have caught the attention of attention of reporters for The New York Times, Fox News, and The Huffington Post.
As has Mr. Kaczynski. Slate political columnist Dave Weigel called him “the Oppenheimer of archival video research.”
For those skeptical of the shift underway at BuzzFeed—the funny photo aggregator with sudden aspirations of journalistic prestige—Mr. Kaczynski seems to perfectly embody its new hybrid mandate. He’s a viral video artist, sure, but his videos happen to break news.
In the mold of Nate Silver, Mr. Kaczynski carved a lucrative niche for himself outside of traditional political media, building a personal brand out from his natural obsessions. Now he’ll benefit from the guidance and oversight of Mr. Smith, an experienced political reporter who was recently crowned BuzzFeed editor in chief.
“Andrew’s grasp of the online video world is, I think, basically unique,” Mr. Smith wrote Off the Record. “We’re going to help him figure out and explain what’s news, and to expose it to the broadest possible audience.”
Until now, Mr. Kaczynski had obsessing pro bono, posting the C-SPAN gold to his YouTube and Twitter accounts and watching them reverberate across the political media (and acquiring more than 10,000 followers in the process). Mr. Kaczynski will now work part-time for BuzzFeed until graduation, when Mr. Smith hopes to hire him full-time.
“I’m not sure how he’s managed his studies with this obsession, but he’s already doing it, and he might as well make a few bucks,” Mr. Smith wrote. “He’s going to be one more New York City college kid juggling school and work.”
Mr. Kazcynski’s choice of employer may have some campaigns breathing a sigh of relief.
As New York pointed out, by uncovering embarrassing or entertaining videos, Mr. Kaczynski inadvertently occupied a role once reserved for the most ruthless political consultants–opposition researcher–minus the huge paychecks. One of his Mitt Romney finds was picked up and used in a Jon Huntsman attack ad.
But despite having internships for two House members and the Republican National Committee on his resume, Mr. Kazcynski decided to go take the non-partisan route in journalism.
“I found DC a little boring and realized I wanted to be involved in politics but not work in politics,” Mr. Kaczynski wrote.
Asked if Mr. Kazcynski represented the model for new BuzzFeed reporters—young, obsessive, digitally native—Mr. Smith said that the new team would “deeply understand” the Internet.
“I’m not sure they have to be young or native, though,” he wrote, “I think I consider myself naturalized.”