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Ben Smith
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Smith in 2012
Born
Benjamin Eli Smith

November 4, 1976 (1976-11-04) (age 44)
Alma mater Yale University (BA)
Occupation
  • Journalist
Years active 1999–present
Spouse(s)
Liena Zagare (m. 2002)
Children 3
Parent(s) Dian Goldston Smith
Robert S. Smith

Benjamin Eli Smith (born November 4, 1976) is an American journalist who has worked as a media columnist for The New York Times since January 2020. From 2011 to 2020, he was the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News.

Early life and education

Smith was born and raised in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the son of author Dian (née Goldston) and attorney Robert S. Smith, who served as an associate judge on the New York Court of Appeals. His mother was Jewish and a Democrat while his father was a Christian and conservative. He greatly admired his grandfather, a novelist who also ghostwrote for Mickey Mantle and Tommy John, and his grandmother a Mark Twain scholar. He attended the prestigious Trinity School (New York City) on the Upper West Side. He graduated with a B.A. summa cum laude from Yale University in 1999, where he wrote for The Yale Herald and The New Journal magazine. He was a resident of Morse College. Smith first became interested in journalism during junior year of college as an intern at The Forward.

Career

Smith's first professional reporting job was the crime beat for The Indianapolis Star. He then moved to Latvia to take a position at The Baltic Times and also began reporting for The Wall Street Journal Europe (until 2001). Smith has also written for The New York Sun (2002–2003), The New York Observer (2003–2006), and the New York Daily News (2006–2007) Between 2004 and 2006, Smith also started three of the leading New York City political blogs, the Politicker, the Daily Politics, and Room Eight.

Politico

Smith wrote for the news outlet Politico from 2008 to 2011, joining as that site expanded. Joining Politico from the New York Daily News in 2007, Smith covered the Democratic presidential primary for Politico in 2008. He covered controversies including Barack Obama's contacts with former Weatherman Bill Ayers and conspiracy theories about Obama's citizenship and Barack Obama religion conspiracy theories. Smith reported erroneously during that 2008 campaign that John Edwards would be dropping out of the race before the press conference at which Edwards announced that his wife Elizabeth had cancer. Smith later posted an apology and retracted the story. In 2010, he reported on a confidential Republican National Committee fundraising presentation counseling the party to capitalize on fear.

BuzzFeed

In December 2011, he was named editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News. Smith explained that he would be leaving his Politico blog but he would still write for the publication weekly.

In January 2017, Smith, as BuzzFeed's editor, published the Steele dossier, a 35-page dossier about Donald Trump, which major news organizations, including The New York Times and NBC News, refused to publish due to lack of credible evidence. Smith defended his decision by saying, "We have always erred on the side of publishing."

The New York Times

In January 2020, he was named media columnist for The New York Times replacing Jim Rutenberg.

On May 17, 2020, Smith published an article titled "Is Ronan Farrow Too Good to Be True?" arguing that some of Farrow's journalism did not hold up to scrutiny. In response, Farrow said that he stood by his reporting.

In 2021, Smith caused an online stir after reporting on downtown Manhattan's reemergent Renaissance of writers, publishers, artists, movie stars, and podcasters. While the report mostly featured co-editors Claire Banse and Michelle "Gutes" Guterman of The Drunken Canal, the piece received general criticism due to its poor fact checking.

Recognition

While working at BuzzFeed, Smith focused on strengthening the organization's investigative journalism unit. In 2012, Fast Company placed Smith on its "100 Most Creative" list. He and Buzzfeed co-founder Jonah Peretti were listed as two of the most powerful people in the media by The Hollywood Reporter. In 2017, he and fellow Jewish journalist Andrea Mitchell were awarded The Jewish Daily Forward's Distinguished Journalism Award.

Smith interviewed Barack Obama in early 2015 for BuzzFeed's first presidential interview.

Personal life

Smith married Latvian publisher Liena Zagare in 2002. He and Zagare have three children and live in Brooklyn.

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