In February 2013, BuzzFeed launched a speaker series in DC where its politics team interviewed politicians over beers in front of a live audience. They called it BuzzFeed Brews, and the idea was to put guests like Marco Rubio and Nancy Pelosi in a more casual setting and talk to them like real people.
At the first event with Senator Marco Rubio, BuzzFeed’s DC bureau chief John Stanton said that he and Ben Smith, BuzzFeed News’s editor-in-chief, “didn’t want to do what you normally get in Washington, which was a boring morning breakfast with a terrible doughnut and a cold cup of coffee.” This was a not-so-subtle dig on Politico’s Playbook Breakfasts, which had been a reigning interview series for Washington insiders since 2011.
Though BuzzFeed Brews was relatively successful, booking notable guests like Claire McCaskill and Anthony Weiner following his first sex scandal and filling small venues around DC and a couple in New York, it didn’t last long. Its last DC event was with Nancy Pelosi in November 2013, and since then, BuzzFeed focused instead on expanding BuzzFeed Brews into other industries such as tech, business, and entertainment. They did one in February with Ryan Reynolds in San Francisco, which BuzzFeed News turned into three separate posts.
But starting at the end of September, BuzzFeed is partnering with the Newseum to relaunch the DC series, bringing on members of Congress who have taken up specific causes like criminal justice reform or immigration. The first guests on September 20 will be Senator Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat who’s recognized as a national leader in criminal-justice reform, and Senator Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah who lead an aggressive effort against nominating Trump at the RNC convention. Both will be interviewed by BuzzFeed News’ Capitol Hill reporter Tarini Parti.
“We’ll also be focused on the looming transition from the Obama administration, as well as broader policy issues that Washington will be confronting next year, regardless of who wins in November,” Stanton says.
The relaunch is also part of a push by BuzzFeed News to invest more in DC political coverage and coincides with the company’s recent split into two divisions. Under Stanton, political editor Katherine Miller, and recently hired managing editor Kate Nocera, the DC bureau will more aggressively cover the new administration during and after Obama transitions out.
“There’s a lot at stake for our audience in Washington next year, and we are making these moves so we can tell—and drive—the big stories of the transition and beyond,” Smith says.
There will be five monthly BuzzFeed Brews events from September to January. All are free (including drinks and food); you need an invitation to attend.