The Media Swamp: New York Times Media Columnist Ben Smith’s Ties to the Outlets He Covers

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 11: BuzzFeed News Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith poses for a picture in his office in the newsroom at BuzzFeed headquarters, December 11, 2018 in New York City. BuzzFeed is an American internet media and news company that was founded in 2006. According to a recent report …
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In my new book, Breaking the News: Exposing the Establishment Media’s Hidden Deals and Secret Corruption, I reveal the findings of my year-long investigation into several of America’s most powerful media corporations. One of the most shocking themes of the book is the incestuous relationship many of America’s biggest media companies have with one another.

There are few clearer examples of this than the case of Ben Smith, media columnist for the New York Times.

Last summer, Ben Smith accused journalist Ronan Farrow of playing fast-and-loose with his reporting on scandals that occurred at NBC. Farrow had suggested the peacock network had covered up the Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer sex scandals. NBCUniversal happens to be the largest outside investor in Buzzfeed, where Smith was previously editor-in- chief. Smith retained stock in BuzzFeed at the time the Farrow piece was published.

It is ironic, though unsurprising, that Smith is the Times’ media columnist considering he was the first to publish the bogus Trump/Russia “pee pee” dossier. And that he took issue with Ronan Farrow’s treatment of NBC—one of Smith’s most important patrons—was a particularly brazen move.

What’s more, Smith didn’t disclose his ties to NBC in his reporting, though he did include the following disclosure in the Farrow column about Buzzfeed: “Disclosure: I don’t cover BuzzFeed extensively in this column because I retain stock options in the company, which I left in February. I’ve agreed to divest those options by the end of the year.”

Despite that promise, Smith has apparently retained his stock in Buzzfeed.

I reached out to Smith in March of 2021 and asked if he had in fact sold his stock as promised. He directed me to a Times column he wrote in January, featuring yet another disclosure: “I don’t cover BuzzFeed extensively in this column, beyond leaning on what I learned during my time there, and The Times has required that I not do so until I divest my stock options in the company.”

I asked him why he delayed selling off his shares. He didn’t offer a response and suggested I reach out the Times’ corporate communications for more information. I did. They did not respond.

Read my full deep-dive investigations into NBC News and the New York Times in Breaking the News, out now.

Alex Marlow is the Editor-in-Chief of Breitbart News, the host of Breitbart News Daily on SiriusXM’s Patriot Channel 125, and the author of the new book, Breaking the News: Exposing the Establishment Media’s Hidden Deals and Secret Corruption. You can follow Alex on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter at @AlexMarlow.

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