New York Times eliminates its public editor, wants readers to do the job

The New York Times is eliminating its public editor position, whose responsibilities have "outgrown the office"

By Katie Serena

Published May 31, 2017 1:24PM (EDT)

 (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, file)
(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, file)

The New York Times is eliminating the public editor position, effective Friday.

In a memo to the newsroom, New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. explained the elimination of the role — as well as public editor Elizabeth Spayd — saying that the responsibility has "outgrown that one office," and expressed his faith that the public, and a new department will help them maintain their relationship with their readers.

"The responsibility of the public editor – to serve as the reader’s representative – has outgrown that one office," Sulzberger wrote. "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."

The public editor, serving as the "readers' representative" is responsible for addressing plagiarism, errors and other questions brought up by the public, was created in 2003 after the Jayson Blair scandal.

The elimination comes as the Times rolls out their new Reader Center, a reader-focused initiative that will help the Times to improve "how [they] respond directly to tips, feedback, questions, concerns, complaints and other queries from the public — whether they arrive through email, social media, posts on our own platforms or other channels.”

Spayd, a former Washington Post managing editor and the Times's sixth public editor, has been in the position for less than a year, and was expected to continue into mid 2018.

Though she was in the position for less than a year, her time was not without criticism. She was criticized for her responses to far-right tweeters, and calling her own journalists' tweets "outrageous."

Spayd has not yet commented on the elimination of her position.



Katie Serena

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Elizabeth Spayd Jayson Blair New York Times Public Editor