NY Times Media Columnist Ben Smith Questions Ronan Farrow’s ‘Misleading’ and ‘Dangerous’ Journalism

The former editor in chief of BuzzFeed News questioned if Farrow flies “too close to the sun”

Last Updated: May 18, 2020 @ 6:21 PM

Ronan Farrow is known for taking down powerful men like Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer with his in-depth reporting, but on Sunday, New York Times’ new media columnist Ben Smith delivered a takedown of Farrow.

Smith calls out Farrow’s reporting in a piece titled “Is Ronan Farrow Too Good to Be True?”

Smith questioned whether Farrow flies “too close to the sun”: “Because if you scratch at Mr. Farrow’s reporting in The New Yorker and in his 2019 bestseller, ‘Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators,’ you start to see some shakiness at its foundation. He delivers narratives that are irresistibly cinematic — with unmistakable heroes and villains — and often omits the complicating facts and inconvenient details that may make them less dramatic. At times, he does not always follow the typical journalistic imperatives of corroboration and rigorous disclosure, or he suggests conspiracies that are tantalizing but he cannot prove.”

Though he pointed out examples of reporting that didn’t hold up over the years — like a piece on “missing files” on Trump fixer Michael Cohen within the Treasury Department that turned out to be “simply put on restricted access” — Smith insisted Farrow “does not make things up.” Still, he spoke to the New Yorker’s Ken Auletta, who worked to bring Farrow’s reporting to the magazine, and Auletta shone a light on what he thinks Farrow’s strategy is, if not making things up.

“Are all the Ts crossed and the Is dotted? No,” Auletta said. “You’re still left with the bottom line — he delivered the goods.”

Smith wrote Sunday that Farrow defended the word “conspiracy” in “Catch & Kill’s” subtitle, saying it “accurately conveys the substance of the book and efforts by powerful men to evade accountability.” Farrow added, “With respect to Weinstein, I carefully lay out the various levers of pressure exerted against my reporting — through personal relationships, private espionage, legal threats, etc.”

The piece caused a stir Sunday night on its release as readers questioned why Smith and the Times would take aim at Farrow seemingly out of nowhere.

“I’ll be honest, my first reaction to NYT publishing a bizarre hit piece on Ronan Farrow is that he’s working on something they want to preemptively discredit,” tweeted Shannon Stagman, co-lead of the grassroots group Empire State Indivisible, who said the story is “full of innuendo.”

Most in media seemed to be on Farrow’s side, though his camp has yet to release an official statement. Writer Carole Cadwalladr scorned Smith, writing, “you can take a bro out of Buzzfeed. But can you ever take Buzzfeed out of the bro?”

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