Michael Wolff Questions Ben Smith’s Uber Expose

USATodayPeterPanModifiedLogoCaught in the middle of Uber and BuzzFeed, Michael Wolff has opted to make the headline-grabbing story – and himself – the subject of today’s USA Today column.

Wolff writes that after hearing directly from Uber on Monday that BuzzFeed EIC Ben Smith was working on an article about the Friday “influential” held at Manhattan’s Waverly Inn, he contacted Smith (his +1 for the event) to note the fact that he should have told Smith it was off-the-record affair. While Wolff says he understands the tricky balance for a journalist of off-the-record vs. inflammatory remarks, he thinks ultimately that Smith did not paint an accurate picture:

Other than meeting at The Waverly dinner, I do not know the Uber people, except as an often grateful consumer of their services. I do know, however, that it was a convivial evening, and that Smith’s portrait is at odds with the event.

In fact, Smith’s article rather obviously misrepresents it. The article implies that the [Emil] Michael remarks were to the dinner itself, heard by everyone, and unchallenged, instead of a conversation that no one else knew had occurred. Indeed, Smith, peculiarly, is the author of the BuzzFeed article that describes these remarks, but refers just to an unnamed BuzzFeed editor as attending the event — depersonalizing the encounter. Not one-on-one, but somehow more serious and official. Hence, more newslike, I suppose. Scarier.

Wolff says Smith could have easily asked Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, on The Waverly spot, about Michael’s remarks and that a “more skillful writer” would have added context. Read the rest of Wolff’s thoughts here.

Update (November 21):
Nicole Campbell, who was seated next to Smith and Emil Michael at the November 14 dinner, has posted her own dissonant take on The Huffington Post. She concludes:

I will admit that I am friends with Emil. We were both White House Fellows serving in different departments during the first year of the Obama administration where we both quit our jobs to take civil service positions to improve our country. I am upset that Ben sensationalized what happened at that dinner. His account was not fair and the coverage about this whole incident has been ridiculous. Tearing down someone’s reputation may be fun, but it isn’t right… especially when the facts aren’t on your side. What’s worse, I believe that Ben’s comments caused Sarah some understandable angst. Sarah, take it from me that what Ben reported is not true.

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