Speed Reads

End of an Era

The New York Times disposes of its public editor position amid buyouts

The New York Times is cutting its public editor position, The Huffington Post reports. In a statement, the Times wrote that "the responsibility of the public editor — to serve as the reader's representative — has outgrown that one office. Our business requires that we all must seek to hold ourselves accountable to our readers." Elizabeth Spayd, the current editor, had previously been expected to remain through summer 2018.

The public editor role was created in the wake of New York Times journalist Jayson Blair's plagiarism and factual exaggerations coming to light in 2003. "After the scandal and a thorough internal analysis, Times management put safeguards in place," wrote former Times public editor Margaret Sullivan in 2013. "One was the role of the public editor — I am the fifth — to give readers a direct place, independent of the Times' editing structure, to take complaints about journalistic integrity."

Spayd, who took over the role last summer, has faced criticism for her columns, with Slate calling her first offering "a travesty." But other newspapers have already dispensed of public editors, including The Washington Post, which justified the decision by citing the ample criticism and scrutiny the paper receives in the "internet age."

The Times' decision to axe the public editor position follows the creation of the paper's "Reader Center," which aims to build on how the Times "respond[s] directly to tips feedback, questions, concerns, complaints, and other queries from the public." The paper also announced buyouts Wednesday aimed mainly at editors.