Ben Smith (journalist)

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Ben Smith
Ben Smith journalist (cropped).jpg
Smith in 2012
Benjamin Eli Smith

(1976-11-04) November 4, 1976 (age 44)
Alma materYale University (BA)
  • Journalist
Years active1999–present
Liena Zagare
(m. 2002)
Parent(s)Dian Goldston Smith
Robert S. Smith

Benjamin Eli Smith (born November 4, 1976)[1] 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.[2]

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, 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.[3] He greatly admired his grandfather, a novelist who also ghostwrote for Mickey Mantle and Tommy John, and his grandmother a Mark Twain scholar.[4] 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.[5] He was a resident of Morse College.[6] Smith first became interested in journalism during junior year of college as an intern at The Forward.[7]


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).[8] 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)[9] Between 2004 and 2006, Smith also started three of the leading 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[10] and conspiracy theories about Obama's citizenship[11] and Barack Obama religion conspiracy theories.[12] Smith reported erroneously during that 2008 campaign that John Edwards would be dropping out of the race[13] before the press conference at which Edwards announced that his wife Elizabeth had cancer. Smith later posted an apology[14] and retracted the story. In 2010, he reported on a confidential Republican National Committee fundraising presentation counseling the party to capitalize on fear.[15]


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.[16]

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."[17]

The New York Times[edit]

In January 2020, he was named media columnist for The New York Times replacing Jim Rutenberg.[18]

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.[19] In response, Farrow said that he stood by his reporting.[20]

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.[21]


While working at BuzzFeed, Smith focused on strengthening the organization's investigative journalism unit.[22][23] In 2012, Fast Company placed Smith on its "100 Most Creative" list.[24] He and Buzzfeed co-founder Jonah Peretti were listed as two of the most powerful people in the media by The Hollywood Reporter.[22] In 2017, he and fellow Jewish journalist Andrea Mitchell were awarded The Jewish Daily Forward's Distinguished Journalism Award.[25]

Smith interviewed Barack Obama in early 2015 for BuzzFeed's first presidential interview.[26]

Personal life[edit]

Smith married Latvian publisher Liena Zagare in 2002.[27][28] He and Zagare have three children and live in Brooklyn.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Staff, Politico. "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. ^ "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.
  4. ^ Quenqua, Douglas (2013-02-15). "The Boy Wonder of BuzzFeed". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-12-07.
  5. ^ (6 January 2011). Yalies start 2012 campaign for Mitch Daniels Archived March 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Yale Daily News (notes Smith's Yale graduation year as 1999)
  6. ^ "This Old House – The New Journal". Retrieved 2019-12-07.
  7. ^ Smith, Ben (April 1, 2019). "Where I Fell in Love".
  8. ^ Rothstein, Betsy. (11 November 2011). FishbowlDC Interview with Politico's Ben Smith, FishbowlDC
  9. ^ (3 January 2007). Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, The New York Sun (reporting that Smith was leaving the Sun to join Politico)
  10. ^ Smith, Ben (February 22, 2008). "Obama once visited '60s radicals". Politico. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
  11. ^ Smith, Ben (March 1, 2009). "Culture of conspiracy: the Birthers". Politico. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
  12. ^ Smith, Ben; Jonathan Martin (October 13, 2007). "Untraceable e-mails spread Obama rumor". Politico. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Smith, Ben (March 22, 2007). "Getting It Wrong". Politico. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Smith, Ben (December 12, 2011). "Home News". Politico. Retrieved December 12, 2011.
  17. ^ BuzzFeed Defends Publishing Unverified Allegations About Donald Trump's Russia Ties, The Huffington Post.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ Smith, Ben (17 May 2020). "Is Ronan Farrow Too Good to Be True?". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 May 2020.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ Smith, Ben (2021-03-08). "They Had a Fun Pandemic. You Can Read About It in Print". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-04-28.
  22. ^ a b c "Jonah Peretti and Ben Smith". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2016-02-08.
  23. ^ "» Mark Schoofs leaves ProPublica to head BuzzFeed's investigative unit JIMROMENESKO.COM". Archived from the original on 2016-03-13. Retrieved 2016-02-08.
  24. ^ "29. Ben Smith". Fast Company. Retrieved 2016-02-08.
  25. ^ "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.
  26. ^ "BuzzFeed's Ben Smith to interview Obama". Politico. Retrieved 2016-02-08.
  27. ^ (October 6, 2002). WEDDINGS/CELEBRATIONS; Liena Zagare, Benjamin Smith, The New York Times
  28. ^ Bazilian, Emma (April 29, 2011). Patch Hires Brooklyn Blogger Liena Zagare, Adweek

External links[edit]