The Mirror

BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith: Hero We Want Or ’D**kbag’ We Deserve?

REUTERS/Gus Ruelas

Betsy Rothstein Gossip blogger
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Earlier in the week, The Mirror reported that CNN KFILE’s Andrew Kaczynski was not the author of the controversial line in his story about Reddit user HanAssholeSolo:

“CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.”

Rather, as The Mirror reported, the line was inserted during the editing process.  All of which is true.  As it turns out, a longtime CNN executive and head of standards named Richard Davis suggested that addition to Kaczynski’s story that made countless readers, Trump supporters — and Vox — accuse Kaczynski of writing a piece that looked a lot like a threat or blackmail. Davis’s name emerged last night in a piece by Gizmodo‘s J.K. Trotter.

As a result of this revelation, KFILE’s former boss and Buzzfeed EIC Ben Smith rode in on a white horse to trash CNN in Politico’s Morning Media by soon-to-be Vanity Fair writer Joe Pompeo, who finished up at the pub with Smith’s big defense of KFILE.

“It makes me sick that they’re not out there defending a great reporter who is taking all the heat for them. Editors need to have reporters’ backs, and to take responsibility for screw-ups. This, and the recent firings” — for the record, officially they were resignations — “send a terrible signal to reporters who are trying to do their jobs.”

I sought additional comment from Smith on whether he wanted to revise his comments.

Smith wrote by email, “I think it’s important that editors take responsibility for what they publish, including for mistakes, and in a healthy newsroom (I think this is true of non-news organizations too) the buck should stop at the top, not the bottom. That doesn’t seem like a very controversial view tbh.”

The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald paraded around Twitter denouncing CNN for not protecting poor KFILE.






But was KFILE an innocent victim?

The Mirror says NO. As we reported and as Trotter’s piece suggests, the line was inserted during editing. But it seems that no one involved in CNN’s rather complex publishing process, including KFILE, opposed its addition. “It was intended to mean anything but blackmail or a deal,” a source told me. Preposterously, in legalese, it was supposed to explain away why Kaczynski wasn’t naming the Reddit user.

Which might explain why CNN hasn’t already outed Davis for the blunder.

Now, a quick Q: So where was Ben Smith, the obvious hero of this story, when ousted BuzzFeeder Benny Johnson took the fall for thousands of stories that didn’t meet BuzzFeed‘s editorial standards?

Oh right. He fired Johnson, outed him for 41 counts of plagiarism, and then disposed of the bodies, er….stories — many of which did not have Johnson bylines.  So why the ire now?

A little backstory: Back in 2016, Smith was furious when CNN poached Kaczynski and his team from BuzzFeed just one month before the presidential election.  The Mirror hears that that Smith didn’t have the ordinary wistfulness or regret of a boss who has lost a cherished employee. Instead, it was more like a “5-alarm meltdown.”

“The bullshit charade this morning is just Ben saying ‘Fuck You’ to CNN and a way of telling KFILE ‘you should’ve never left daddy,’” said a source.

Another media insider laughed it off, “That dick bag has no standards.”

Even if the support is Smith’s not-so-subtle way of trying to lure KFILE back to BuzzFeed, sources say that it’s not possible.  Plus, he purportedly loves his job and the network.

A CNN spox declined to offer specifics about the editing process.

Kaczynski did not return an email request for comment.