The New York times is reportedly eliminating the position of public editor – a move that is bound to raise eyebrows given the public editor’s role in holding the media giant accountable to its readers.
According to HuffPost, the role of public editor was first introduced at The New York Times in 2003 following a plagiarism and fabrication scandal involving reporter Jayson Blair.
Since then, six individuals have served as public editor for The Times – most recently, Elizabeth Spayd, who received the gig last year and was expected to hold it until 2018.
As HuffPost points out, Spayd’s tenure as public editor was fraught with tension provoked by her relentless willingness to call The New York Times out on its rubbish.
Last year, for example, Spayd came under fire for calling tweets by Times reporters ranting about Trump “outrageous” during a conversation with Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
There was also this column, in which Spayd declared that “better campaign coverage was needed,” pointing to her own outlet’s twisted efforts to display Trump as the enemy of progress.
“There is a group of 10 friends in Charlotte, N.C., all women, all in their 50s, all white,” she wrote.
“They’re college educated with successful careers, and they have a message for The New York Times: Come visit us.”
“They voted for Donald Trump and don’t consider themselves homophobic, racist or anti-Muslim. But now, they say, thanks to The Times and its fixation on Trump’s most extreme supporters, most people think they are.”
Speaking with The Atlantic earlier this month, Spayd clarified her stance.
“My job is not to win any popularity contests,” she said. “It’s not to put my finger up and gauge the direction of the wind and move toward that. My job is to do what I think, based on my many years of experience, is the right thing to do.”
According to HuffPost, New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. confirmed the decision to eliminate Spayd’s position.
“Every one of us at The Times wakes up every day determined to help our audience better understand the world,” he reportedly said in a memo to staff. “In return, our subscribers provide much of the funding we need to support our deeply reported, on-the-ground journalism.”
“The responsibility of the public editor – to serve as the reader’s representative – has outgrown that one office. Our business requires that we must all seek to hold ourselves accountable to our readers. When our audience has questions or concerns, whether about current events or our coverage decisions, we must answer them ourselves.”
“To that end, we have decided to eliminate the position of the public editor, while introducing several new reader-focused efforts. We are grateful to Liz Spayd, who has served in the role since last summer, for her tough, passionate work and for raising issues of critical importance to our newsroom. Liz will leave The Times on Friday as our last public editor.”
News of The Times’ decision is odd given the outlet’s insinuation that President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey was suspicious given the latter’s involvement in an investigation related to Russian collusion.
“President Trump on Tuesday fired the director of the FBI, James B. Comey, abruptly terminating the top official leading a criminal investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s advisers colluded with the Russian government to steer the outcome of the 2016 presidential election,” the outlet wrote at the time.
Many comments posted online are taking jabs at The New York Times for eliminating its main accountability officer.
NYT public editor came under criticism for addressing questions of bias. Paper's response: eliminate the position. https://t.co/IVJBmYF7mG
— Byron York (@ByronYork) May 31, 2017
— Julian Assange (@JulianAssange) May 31, 2017
Without a public editor, how will we know if anyone has any complaints about New York Times articles?
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) May 31, 2017
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