Ben Smith, editor in chief of BuzzFeed News for the last eight years, announced Tuesday he is exiting to join the New York Times as a media columnist.
“It’s been the privilege of my life to do this job, in its many iterations, for more than eight years,” he wrote in a letter first sent to staff. “The notion that BuzzFeed could play a major role in shaping global news, and the news business — from tweets to streaming shows — sounded crazy in 2012. Now it’s just a fact, the product of most of all of your hard work, creativity, aggressiveness, and judgment.”
The New York Times issued a tweet through its communications department shortly after he posted the announcement: “We are excited to announce that Ben Smith (@buzzfeedben), a relentless innovator who helped change the shape of modern journalism, is becoming our new media columnist.”
In his staff announcement, Smith wrote, “The newsroom and the company as a whole are now in a strong position. We have a CEO who fundamentally believes in news and has proven again and again that he’ll stand up for the toughest stories, about anyone, and colleagues across the organization who share that view.”
It’s true that the site he created doesn’t back away from stories: Back in 2017, Smith took to the New York Times op-ed page to explain why his site published the infamous “golden shower” dossier from British counterintelligence specialist Christopher Steele that featured unverified allegations about Donald Trump and his supposed ties to Russia.
Smith claimed BuzzFeed “spent weeks with reporters in the United States and Europe trying to confirm or disprove specific claims.”
BuzzFeed is edging closer to profitability, according to the Wall Street Journal, but had a rough 2019. In April, the site confirmed it would no longer include a regular reporter in the White House travel pool that accompanies the president on trips at home and abroad. The development comes amid broader cost concerns and financial pressures the company has faced in recent months. Earlier in the year, there were layoffs of about 15% of the site’s staff.