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The Backstory: The Smiths’ NewMediaCo

Justin Smith
Photo by Aniruddha Chowdhury via Getty
Jon Kelly
January 8, 2022

Last month, during the blessed pre-holiday-party moment before Omicron descended, I headed uptown from Puck’s cozy West Village office to grab coffee with Ben Smith, the former editor of Buzzfeed News and, at the time, the feared and revered media columnist for The New York Times. Ben and I have known each other, off and on, for years. Back when I founded The Hive, in 2016, I sought his advice while he was the steward of Buzzfeed’s colossal journalistic ambitions. At the time, he had become the industry’s favorite digital media pin-up—a charming former byline beast equally comfortable in a reporting bullpen or a Central Park West parlor. Ben once described his upbringing to me as “that kid from Metropolitan,” the Whit Stillman classic about a Manhattan prep school outsider. I’ll admit that I’d used that line once or twice to describe my own sociological bildungsroman. A friendship was born.