Los Angeles Times loses Ken Bensinger to BuzzFeed

buzzfeed-la.jpgInvestigative reporter Ken Bensinger is leaving the LA Times to help start up an investigative unit in Los Angeles for BuzzFeed. I assume he'll be based at the new offices and video studio near El Coyote on Beverly Boulevard. Bensinger gets a gracious send-off email from LAT editors Davan Maharaj and Marc Duvoisin.

To the staff:

Ken Bensinger has made a career of spotting the extraordinary amid the mundane. The result has been journalism that changed laws and saved lives.

His investigation of unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles began with an oddity in government safety data that everyone else had overlooked: Why was Toyota recalling something as innocuous as floor mats?

The ensuing stories, reported with Ralph Vartabedian, led Toyota to recall more than 10 million vehicles worldwide and pay nearly $2 billion to settle thousand of lawsuits from motorists. Many suffered serious injury or death in runaway vehicles. The coverage won a Loeb award and was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize.

The road to Ken’s next big story began at a trade show where he spotted a booth peddling devices to disable a car’s ignition remotely. Ken had stumbled upon the seedy world of “buy-here, pay-here” auto dealers, who sell clunkers to the poor and desperate on tough terms, using even tougher collection tactics. His “Wheels of Fortune” series prompted two new California laws making it harder for car dealers to exploit low-income buyers. The series won Ken a second Loeb.

Since then, he’s done groundbreaking reporting on big-time college basketball recruiting, brain injuries among professional football players and the bizarre world of lifetime frequent flier passes.

Ken’s first job was at Swing magazine, which wasn’t nearly as much fun as it sounds; it mostly involved faxing and filing. He went on to the Wall Street Journal, where he surprised his editors by jumping ship for a fellowship in Mexico City.

Now Ken is chasing another hunch. After six years with The Times, he’s leaving to join BuzzFeed.

The online juggernaut, known for hard-hitting reports such as “The 25 Most Awkward Cat Sleeping Positions,” is launching an investigative unit. It has hired Ken to help push the site toward impact journalism. Ken, in turn, is excited about learning the art and science of click bait.

We’ll miss Ken’s smarts, his doggedness, his wit and his fellowship. The good news is that he’ll be based in Los Angeles. We wish him all the best on his new adventure.

Davan and Marc

Photo: BuzzFeed

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