New York Times Spikes Public Editor Role, Liz Spayd to Exit Paper

“The responsibility of the public editor — to serve as the reader’s representative — has outgrown that one office,” publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. tells staffers

Last Updated: May 31, 2017 @ 8:45 AM

The New York Times is eliminating the position of public editor, the paper announced Wednesday.

The current holder of the position, former Washington Post managing editor Elizabeth Spayd, will leave the Times on Friday more than a year ahead of the scheduled end of her tenure.

The paper hired its first public editor in 2003 in the wake of the embarrassing plagiarism scandal surrounding former reporter Jayson Blair. The position was created to provide more accountability to readers about the actions and decisions of the Times’ editors and reporters.

“The responsibility of the public editor — to serve as the reader’s representative — has outgrown that one office,” New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. wrote in a Wednesday memo to staffers obtained by TheWrap.

“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,” Sulzberger, Jr. wrote. “We have decided to eliminate the position of the public editor, while introducing several new reader-focused efforts.”

He continued: “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.”

Sulzberger, Jr. explained to employees that, “Followers on social media and our readers across the internet have come together to collectively serve as a modern watchdog, more vigilant and forceful than one person could ever be.”

The Times will expand its commenting platform through a collaboration with Google that will allow readers to comment on most stories. On Tuesday, the Times announced the creation of a Reader Center, which is billed as a central hub to engage readers about the Times’ content.

“It’s also worth noting that we welcome thoughtful criticism from our peers at other news outlets. Fortunately, there is no shortage of those independent critiques,” Sulzberger, Jr. wrote.

Daniel Okrent, Byron Calame, Clark Hoyt, Arthur Brisbane and Margaret Sullivan join Spayd as the six public editors in the Times’ history.