Buzzfeed News editor in chief Ben Smith is jumping ship to join The New York Times. In a staff memo, Times executives revealed that Smith would be joining the newspaper as media columnist, effective March 2.
He succeeds Jim Rutenberg, who has held the position since 2016 and covered a diverse range of topics, including the Murdoch empire and the reverberations of the #MeToo movement within media. Rutenberg will become a writer at large, splitting his time between politics and the magazine.
Prior to Rutenberg, the position was for many years held by the late David Carr, who worked at the Times until his death in 2015 and is widely viewed as the architect of its media coverage.
“The role of media columnist is essential at The Times. It was pioneered by and largely shaped by the late David Carr, who with passion and insight captured the rise of digital outlets and the collapse of the newspaper advertising model, the power of WikiLeaks and the misconduct of media moguls,” the memo said.
As for Smith, he has led Buzzfeed News since 2012 and was previously political writer for Politico and a columnist for The New York Daily News. The memo described him as not only understanding “the seismic changes remaking media,” but also having lived them — and in some cases, led them. “His desire to experiment with new digital forms and his drive to break big news have long fueled his career,” it said.
In a note to staff, Smith wrote that after eight years at the helm of Buzzfeed News, he is eager for a spell of writing and reporting and thinking and that’s why he has decided to join the Times.
As for Buzzfeed, he added that he leaves it in a strong position.”We have a ceo that 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.”
But despite his words, many believe it’s a trying time for Buzzfeed, once a digital darling, as it struggles to return to profitability. Last year, it laid off about 15 percent of its workers, while management also got embroiled in a nasty fight with staff over unionization.
A representative for Buzzfeed told WWD that it has just started its search for Smith’s successor.
For more, see: