10 months ago
In an era where many Americans no longer trust the media, The New York Times eliminated the position of public editor—the internal watchdog that watches over the newspaper’s practices on behalf of its readers.
Outgoing public editor Liz Spayd signed off with her final column for The Times on Friday afternoon with a warning to her colleagues in journalism.
“There probably hasn’t been a time in recent American history when the role of the media was more important than now,” Spayd wrote.
“The Trump administration is drowning in scandal, the country is calcified into two partisan halves. And large newsrooms are faced with a choice: to maintain an independent voice, but one as aggressive and unblinking as the days of Watergate. Or to morph into something more partisan, spraying ammunition at every favorite target and openly delighting in the chaos.
“Whether journalists realize it or not, with impartiality comes authority — and right now it’s in short supply,” added Spayd.
But that final warning came just two days after Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger dashed off a Wednesday memo to the staff—after the HuffPost already reported that news. His rationale for the move was that in the internet age, the readers have more direct ways of airing their grievances to the editors on a newspaper’s masthead.
Spayd, a former managing editor at The Washington Post, had plenty of critics inside and outside the newsroom. Recently she was slammed for not vocally challenging The Times over its highly controversial decision to give a column to climate skeptic Bret Stephens.
Still, there are those on social media and elsewhere that have expressed worry over the elimination of the public editor position at a time when the media is under such heavy scrutiny.