Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt didn’t waste any time committing to his 2014 New Year’s resolution. So he had BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith on his Thursday program.
“You know why you’re on today?” Hewitt asked. “You’re my New Year’s resolution. I’ve been holding a grudge against BuzzFeed since you would not produce McKay Coppins during the Romney campaign when he slagged on the governor.” (Coppins is BuzzFeed‘s former political editor and is now senior political writer and working on a book about the future of the GOP.)
“Oh thank you,” Smith replied. “I didn’t even realize we’d been banned.”
Hewitt: “You weren’t banned, you were in the penalty box. … McKay should’ve come on and answered the story and you held him out. I don’t even blame him. I blame you.”
Smith: “Oh no, I don’t let my reporters get beat up by the likes of you.”
Hewitt: “He said like completely random nutty thing and it wouldv’e taken like one minute for him to say….” Smith interrupted, “As I recall he said something that was obviously true as a descriptive fact.” Hewitt: “Like what dumb thing will Romney say today?” Smith: Which in retrospect was a reasonable prediction on that campaign.” Hewitt: But it demonstrated an attitude toward the candidate which was actually not what I think McKay held but it was kind of a fun thing to say right?” Smith: “When you’re on the campaign trail, you develop a sort of naturally antagonistic relationship with the campaign.”
Some conservative as well as old-school journalists bristle at Smith, who actually had compliments for right-leaning reporters. “There are a lot of good reporters in the partisan media,” Smith said. But he said he’d never hire seriously politically motivated reporters. “Oh yeah, I don’t hire people who want to be idealogues. … I think it does hurt you as a reporter. I think it can limit basically who is going to talk to you and who is going to trust you.”
Random assortment of questions
Is BuzzFeed ruining journalism? “No, we see ourselves as maybe the first really ambitious journalistic outfit that’s really native to this new environment where Twitter and Facebook are the core distribution platforms.”
Do you believe in God? ”Wow…no.” And later…”It’s not a question I’ve thought through and you sort of caught me off guard.” His bio lists him as Jewish.
Did you vote for President Obama. ”I didn’t vote.”
Can the Sunday shows be saved? “I’ve never in my life spent a lot of time watching them … I’m going on this week for the first time.”
Are you a force for good? “I mean, I think journalism is a force for good.” But BuzzFeed? “Yes, absolutely.” And why? “I guess I think both journalism and entertainment are goods.”