Chris Hamby joins Buzzfeed, Pulitzer in hand

Chris Hamby. (AP Photo/The Pulitzer Prize Board)
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Fresh off a Pulitzer win for his investigative work at The Center for Public Integrity, Chris Hamby is jumping ship to join Mark Schoofs' investigations desk at Buzzfeed, Capital has learned.

Hamby, who will be based in Washington D.C., is otherwise in the news today as C.P.I. engages in a public argument with ABC News over credit for the Pulitzer, awarded to a three-part, 25,000-word series on coal miners who were deprived of benefits for the treatment of deadly black lung disease. The third part of the series involved a collaboration with ABC News that resulted in a "Nightline" segment. (Pulitzers are typically only awarded to work in print and text-based work.)

The project, “Breathless and Burdened: Dying from Black Lung, Buried by Law and Medicine,” was an intersection of Hamby's beats as a C.P.I. staff writer: environment and labor. But Buzzfeed editor in chief Ben Smith doesn't expect Hamby to continue covering those specific topics for the site.

“[Environment and labor] are certainly places he has really deep roots,” Smith told Capital. “He spent the last year covering the [coal miners], but his style is to dig very, very deep into a specific thing. We're excited to see what his next thing is.”

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Smith said he has been an admirer of Hamby's work for quite a while, calling his series on mining “unbelievable.” “It's the best reporting I've seen in my life,” Smith said.

Hamby, who previously worked for the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting, was approached by Schoofs about working for Buzzfeed a few months ago and the two began serious talks in mid-March. 

“We didn't want to and aren't trying to steal any of the limelight,” Buzzfeed said of the timing of Hamby's hire. “We're just incredibly proud of Chris for the prize, and most of all for the impact his work had in the lives of coal miners facing black lung.”

Hamby will be joining the site's growing stable of investigative reporters led by Schoofs: Emmy-award winner Aram Roston, who joined the site in February; former Los Angeles Times reporter Ken Bensinger, who joined in January; former Indianapolis Star reporter Alex Campbell; and former Wall Street Journal data reporter Jeremy Singer-Vine, who is now the unit's data editor.

Schoofs is a recent addition to Buzzfeed's newsroom himself. The former ProPublica editor joined Buzzfeed in October of 2013 to develop and helm the site's investigative unit.

“I’m thrilled to be joining a powerhouse team that will combine the time-honored rigors of investigative journalism with the creativity, technological prowess and reach of BuzzFeed," Hamby said. "I view Buzzfeed’s commitment to hard-hitting, fair and compelling reporting as a tremendous sign for the future of journalism.” 

According to Smith, they expect to bring on a team of seven investigative reporters in addition to a team of data reporters, while also working across the newsroom with reporters not in the unit but working on their own investigations.

“I think Mark has been able to hire some of the best reporters in the world,” Smith said. “We're really impressed daily with what an amazing editor he is. There are these great reporters who have both the absoulte best traditional reporting chops, but they're also really excited to work with the tools and the scale that Buzzfeed has.”

Hamby will start work on May 1.