Ben Smith and Fred Dicker Disagree About Liz Benjamin, Andrew Cuomo, Journalistic Values and The Meaning of ‘Dossier’

In the wake of Buzzfeed’s bombshell report that Andrew Cuomo’s office kept a dossier on the slights blogger Liz Benjamin wielded against their boss (and tried to get her fired for them), Buzzfeed editor–and story author–Ben Smith appeared on Fred Dicker’s radio show to talk about the piece.

Mr. Dicker of course is one of Mr. Cuomo’s closest allies in the press, with his radio  program being the site of a regular “gentle colloquy” with the governor.

And it was clear from their brief interview that Mr. Smith and Mr. Dicker do not reside in the same reality.

At first, Mr. Dicker disputed the newsiness of the story.

“If someone tried to get you fired, Fred, I would certainly consider that a story,” Mr. Smith shot back.

“Well wait a minute. I don’t consider that a story. It has happened repeatedly to me,” Mr. Dicker responded.

“So if Gov. Cuomo tried to get you fired, I shouldn’t write that?” Mr. Smith said. “I think that is a pretty good story.”

Mr. Dicker noted that people complain about him all the time, but he doesn’t say much about it.  Mr. Smith concurred but noted that Ms. Benjamin’s employer didn’t leak the story to him, someone in Mr. Cuomo’s press shop did.

After disagreeing over whether or not it was really the role of a government employee to complain about his boss’ press coverage, Mr. Dicker thought he had Mr. Smith cornered.

“By the way, was that a Freudian slip? That you were given these documents by someone in the press office?”

“It’s the opposite of a Freudian slip, Fred.”

“Meaning what? What is the opposite of a Freudian slip?”

“That it wasn’t revealing at all, I hope,” Mr. Smith responded.

Mr. Dicker went on to disagree that the document was in fact a “dossier”–“I thought dossiers were when you do background on people and you try to come up with dirty stuff. You don’t put together clips and call it a dossier” and over whether or not the story was news worthy.

Mr. Smith pointed out that Mr. Cuomo’s press office highlighted as “snarky” items that were “par for the course of coverage of a public official” especially the suggestion that a public official may have political ambition.

Mr. Dicker disagreed on this point too, arguing that it would be snarky if the item was written with “malice behind it.”

“This didn’t strike me as anywhere near gratuitous or nasty and I do think that if Cuomo thinks he is ever going to run for president this is the mildest thing he is going to see.”

Mr. Dicker then disagreed over the idea that Andrew Cuomo “blew this up.”

“Why would  he care very much about a blog coming out of YNN?” Mr. Dicker asked

[To which we can only respond, “EXCUSE ME!!!”]

The exchange ended on a last point of disagreement, with Mr. Smith asking Mr. Dicker if he would not have written about this document if he had been handed it.

“I don’t know. I might have used it in a column,” Mr. Dicker responded. “I am not even sure I would call it a document.”














  Ben Smith and Fred Dicker Disagree About Liz Benjamin, Andrew Cuomo, Journalistic Values and The Meaning of ‘Dossier’