The New York Times is eliminating the position of public editor, an accountability role the paper created in 2003 in the wake of the Jayson Blair plagiarism scandal, according to sources familiar with the decision.
Elizabeth Spayd, a former Washington Post managing editor who was named the paper’s sixth public editor last year, was expected to remain in the position until summer 2018.
Spayd did not respond to requests for comment. A Times spokesperson declined to comment.
The decision comes a day after the Times announced the creation of a “Reader Center” led by editor Hanna Ingber. One role of the new “Reader Center” is to improve how the Times “respond(s) directly to tips feedback, questions, concerns, complaints and other queries from the public,” according to a Tuesday memo.
Several news organizations, including The Washington Post, have phased out the position of ombudsman or public editor in recent years. Post editor Marty Baron justified ending the role by pointing out that the paper receives plenty of criticism from “all quarters, instantly, in this Internet age.”
It’s true that major news organizations face scrutiny from traditional media critics and reporters covering the press, along with partisan outlets across the spectrum and members of the public on social media. But by being in the newsroom, public editors and ombudsmen can often get responses from management that outside reporters and critics can not.
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