Media

Ben Smith

There is one question on the mind of media folks these days: What works online? And at the moment, the website that seems to have the answer is BuzzFeed. Its editor, Ben Smith, 37, is at the center of an experiment that tries to fuse the most entertaining and viral elements of the digital age with a commitment to old-fashioned journalism.

It’s not an easy balance, but so far, Smith, who made his name at the website Politico, seems to be doing something right. BuzzFeed doubled its traffic in Smith’s first year, hitting 40 million visitors a month by the beginning of 2013. And though on any given day, the site is bursting with “listicles” (articles posing as lists) like “The 15 Most Patriotic Dogs in America,” these jostle against political and even international coverage that can be described only as serious. Most people get their news today on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, where articles are shared, and Smith’s BuzzFeed has figured out how best to harness that news-consuming habit by creating the most shareable posts possible.

Before delving into the world of political blogs, Smith worked at the New York Sun and was even briefly an intern at the Forward. He grew up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and now lives in Brooklyn. From those roots onward through Politico, his reporting has always shown a deep interest in the American Jewish story — and particularly Israel’s role in American politics.

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  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
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