Ben Smith (journalist)

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Ben Smith
Smith in 2012
Benjamin Eli Smith

(1976-11-04) November 4, 1976 (age 47)
Alma materYale University (BA)
Years active1999–present
Liena Zagare
(m. 2002)

Benjamin Eli Smith (born November 4, 1976)[1] is an American journalist who is the co-founder of Semafor, a global news organization he formed with Justin Smith in early 2022. He was previously a media columnist at The New York Times from 2020 to 2022. From 2011 to 2020, he was the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News.[2][3]

Early life and education[edit]

Smith was born and raised in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the son of author Dian (née Goldston) and attorney Robert S. Smith, an associate judge on the New York Court of Appeals. His mother was Jewish and a Democrat. His father was a Christian and conservative.[4] He admired his grandfather, a novelist who ghostwrote for Mickey Mantle and Tommy John, and his grandmother, a Mark Twain scholar.[5] He attended 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.[6] He was a resident of Morse College.[7] Smith first became interested in journalism during junior year of college as an intern at The Forward.[8]


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).[9] 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)[10] Between 2004 and 2006, Smith also started three New York City political blogs: The Politicker, The Daily Politics, and Room Eight.


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[11] and conspiracy theories about Obama's citizenship[12] and Barack Obama religion conspiracy theories.[13] Smith reported erroneously during that 2008 campaign that John Edwards would be dropping out of the race[14] before the press conference at which Edwards announced that his wife Elizabeth had cancer. Smith later posted an apology[15] and retracted the story. In 2010, he reported on a confidential Republican National Committee fundraising presentation counseling the party to capitalize on fear.[16]

BuzzFeed News[edit]

In December 2011, he was named editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News.[2] Smith explained that he would be leaving his Politico blog but he would still write for the publication weekly.[17] While working at BuzzFeed, Smith focused on strengthening the organization's investigative journalism unit.[18][19]

Smith interviewed Barack Obama in early 2015 for BuzzFeed's first presidential interview.[20]

In January 2017, Smith, as the editor of BuzzFeed News, 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."[21]

The New York Times[edit]

In January 2020, he was named media columnist for The New York Times, replacing Jim Rutenberg.[22]

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.[23] In response, Farrow said that he stood by his reporting.[24] In a Slate piece, Ashley Feinberg described Smith's report as an "overcorrection for resistance journalism" and opined that his approach showed "broad-mindedness, sacrificing accuracy for some vague, centrist perception of fairness."[25]

Smith reported in late September 2021 that Ozy, a media company, had attempted to deceive investors and advertisers. After Smith's media column appeared on September 26, the story led to a flurry of additional investigation and reporting by multiple sources including Smith, culminating in Ozy's board of directors announcing their intention to shut the company down on October 1.[26]


In early January 2022, Smith announced he would be leaving The New York Times to start a global news venture aimed at the 200 million college-educated English readers. Justin B. Smith would lead the business side of the new venture and Ben would be the top editor. The news site says it will break news and offer nuance to complex news stories.[27] Justin Smith described a new company that would "reimagine quality global journalism" aimed at what he said was an "English-speaking, college-educated, professional class" that had "lost trust in all sources of news and information."[28] The name of the new venture, Semafor, was announced in March 2022.[29]


In 2012, Fast Company placed Smith on its "100 Most Creative" list.[30] In 2016, he and Buzzfeed co-founder Jonah Peretti were listed as two of the most powerful people in the media by The Hollywood Reporter.[18] In 2017, he and fellow Jewish journalist Andrea Mitchell were awarded The Jewish Daily Forward's Distinguished Journalism Award.[31]

Personal life[edit]

Smith married Latvian publisher Liena Zagare in 2002.[32][33] He and Zagare have three children and live in Brooklyn.[18]


  • Traffic: Genius, Rivalry, and Delusion in the Billion-Dollar Race to Go Viral. Penguin Press, ISBN 978-0-593-29975-3[34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Politico Staff (4 November 2019). "BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Ben Smith, BuzzFeed News editor-in-chief". POLITICO. Retrieved 2020-08-25.
  2. ^ a b Stelter, Brian (12 December 2011). BuzzFeed Adds Politico Writer, The New York Times
  3. ^ Gelles, David (January 4, 2022). "Ben Smith Is Leaving The Times for a Global News Start-Up". The New York TImes.
  4. ^ "The Axe Files - Ep. 136: Ben Smith Released" (PDF). University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN. April 6, 2017. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 21, 2019. I grew up in a household where my parents disagreed on pretty much everything and it makes it hard for you to be a real ideologue or to sort of -- you know, or to see the opposing side. To see these two sides is irreconcilable enemies. She's a Democrat and he's also fairly Christian. She's Jewish.
  5. ^ Quenqua, Douglas (February 15, 2013). "The Boy Wonder of BuzzFeed". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 7, 2019.
  6. ^ "Yalies start 2012 campaign for Mitch Daniels". Yale Daily News. 6 January 2011. Archived from the original on March 13, 2011. (notes Smith's Yale graduation year as 1999)
  7. ^ Smith, Ben (October 9, 1998). "This Old House". The New Journal. Yale College students. Retrieved December 7, 2019.
  8. ^ Smith, Ben (April 1, 2019). "Where I Fell in Love". The Forward.
  9. ^ Rothstein, Betsy. (11 November 2011). FishbowlDC Interview with Politico's Ben Smith, FishbowlDC
  10. ^ (3 January 2007). Mr. Smith Goes To Washington Archived 2021-08-11 at the Wayback Machine, The New York Sun (reporting that Smith was leaving the Sun to join Politico)
  11. ^ Smith, Ben (February 22, 2008). "Obama once visited '60s radicals". Politico. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
  12. ^ Smith, Ben (March 1, 2009). "Culture of conspiracy: the Birthers". Politico. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
  13. ^ Smith, Ben; Martin, Jonathan (October 13, 2007). "Untraceable e-mails spread Obama rumor". Politico. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
  14. ^ Montopoli, Brian (March 22, 2007). "Don't Believe The Hype: John Edwards Doesn't Suspend Campaign". CBS News. Archived from the original on 6 February 2011. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
  15. ^ Smith, Ben (March 22, 2007). "Getting It Wrong". Politico. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
  16. ^ Smith, Ben (March 3, 2010). "Exclusive: RNC document mocks donors, plays on 'fear'". Politico. Archived from the original on 4 March 2011. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
  17. ^ Smith, Ben (December 12, 2011). "Home News". Politico. Retrieved December 12, 2011.
  18. ^ a b c "Jonah Peretti and Ben Smith". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on April 19, 2014. Retrieved 2016-02-08.
  19. ^ "» Mark Schoofs leaves ProPublica to head BuzzFeed's investigative unit JIMROMENESKO.COM". Archived from the original on 2016-03-13. Retrieved 2016-02-08.
  20. ^ "BuzzFeed's Ben Smith to interview Obama". Politico. 8 February 2015. Retrieved 2016-02-08.
  21. ^ Calderone, Michael (January 11, 2017). "BuzzFeed Defends Publishing Unverified Allegations About Donald Trump's Russia Ties". HuffPost. Retrieved July 5, 2022.
  22. ^ Zaveri, Mihir (2020-01-28). "Ben Smith of BuzzFeed Named New York Times Media Columnist". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-01-29.
  23. ^ Smith, Ben (17 May 2020). "Is Ronan Farrow Too Good to Be True?". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 May 2020.
  24. ^ Flood, Brian (18 May 2020). "Ronan Farrow fires back at New York Times' Ben Smith: 'I stand by my reporting'". Fox News. Retrieved 18 May 2020.
  25. ^ Feinberg, Ashley (May 21, 2020). "Is Ben Smith's Column About Ronan Farrow Too Good to Be True?". Slate. Retrieved October 24, 2020.
  26. ^ Smith, Ben (October 1, 2021). "Ozy Media Will Shut Down". The New York Times. Retrieved October 1, 2021.
  27. ^ David Gelles (January 4, 2022). "Ben Smith Is Leaving The Times for a Global News Start-Up". New York Times.
  28. ^ Fischer, Sara (5 January 2022). "Two of journalism's disrupters unveil secret idea for richly funded global news platform". Axios. Retrieved 2022-02-01.
  29. ^ Grynbaum, Michael M. (22 March 2022). "Justin and Ben Smith pick a name for their media start-up". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 March 2022.
  30. ^ "29. Ben Smith". Fast Company. Retrieved 2016-02-08.
  31. ^ "The Forward honors Jewish journalists on its 120th anniversary - BuzzFeed editor-in-Chief Ben Smith, longtime television correspondent Andrea Mitchell given this year's Distinguished Journalism Award". Times of Israel. November 16, 2017.
  32. ^ (October 6, 2002). WEDDINGS/CELEBRATIONS; Liena Zagare, Benjamin Smith, The New York Times
  33. ^ Bazilian, Emma (April 29, 2011). Patch Hires Brooklyn Blogger Liena Zagare, Adweek
  34. ^ "Traffic: Genius, Rivalry, and Delusion in the Billion-Dollar Race to Go Viral by Ben Smith". Retrieved 26 April 2023.

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