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Erik Wemple
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Posted at 05:00 PM ET, 02/01/2012

Free Ben Smith!

Come on, Politico. Get over it. He’s gone.

Celebrated journalist/blogger/media maven Ben Smith last year jumped from the Rosslyn-based political news operation to take the editorial helm of BuzzFeed. Who could blame him: The move put Smith in charge of an already-popular site and enabled him to hire young hotshots to fashion content his way.

In an interview with the New York Times, Smith stressed that the leap was hardly a bolt: “I had no plans to leave Politico at all,” he said. “I was totally bit by the bug of how exciting this was.”

Though Politico thus doesn’t look bad losing Smith to such an attractive opportunity, it looks bad handling the transition. Three bullet points:

*Politico continues to monopolize Smith’s byline. Per his exit agreement with his old/current bosses, Smith reportedly cannot put the words “Ben Smith” on top of his frequent postings on BuzzFeed. The oddity gives his pieces an Economist-island feel on a site that otherwise uses bylines on its material. This drives me nuts. I often alight on BuzzFeed content and end up snooping around for a byline. If I don’t find one, did Smith write it, or did I just miss something?

Politico, do a solid for journalistic integrity and let the guy use the byline field in his CMS. Would that really hurt the Politico franchise?

*Politico won’t link to BuzzFeed. Per his exit agreement with Politico, Smith writes a weekly column for the site. Sample one of them. Just how hard would it be to include a tag line in there saying that the guy is editor of BuzzFeed and here’s a link to his extremly unbylined work? Could denial be at work here?

*Politico was slow to update its Ben Smith bio. Here’s a look at a cached version of Politico’s Ben Smith bio, as of Jan. 27:
The site just updated the information, after the outdated information was brought to Smith’s attention. Now it says that Ben Smith is the editor of BuzzFeed. Shouldn’t that be a point to tout and not to suppress? Guy who deepened his sourcing and craft at Politico moves on to helm up-and-coming political site. It’s a turn of events that should add to the glory of the five-year-old Politico brand. It won’t, however, if the mothership plays stingy with links and bylines. At least one side of this relationship is coming off as an adult: “I’m thrilled that I have a continuing relationship with Politico,” says Smith.

A set of questions sent earlier this afternoon to Politico have yet to fetch a response.

By  |  05:00 PM ET, 02/01/2012

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