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The Story the Times Public Editor is Missing

June 23, 2010

On Monday, The New York Times announced that veteran journalist Arthur S. Brisbane will succeed Clark Hoyt this summer as the outlet's public editor.  The public editor (or "ombudsman" as referred to at other organizations) serves as the "internal affairs" chief for the newspaper readers, reporting on the 1000 New York Times journalists themselves.  Established at The Times in wake of the Jayson Blair scandal in an attempt to address public suspicion of journalists, the public editor position aims to hold the Times to higher journalistic standards. Responding to his appointment to this noteworthy position, Brisbane announced his intention to address a wide array of issues during his three year term, including new media's effect on The Times' journalistic standards.  As Jeff Bercovici aptly points out in the Daily Finance, however, there's another story in desperate need of a public editor's attention at The Times - the problematic homogeneity of the Times public editor position itself.  Although the public editor is theoretically supposed to represent the diverse population of Times readers, only white, middle-aged men have served as Times public editors to date.  With this repeated failure to include diversity in this crucial position, the New York Times fails to accurately reflect the wide representative population served by the position, including women. In response to this criticism, Times Executive Editor Bill Keller stated: "I can assure you that the pool of candidates we considered was large and very diverse, and we gave considerable thought to the issue you raise.  In the end, Art stood out as the strongest candidate. And I fully expect him to represent the interests of all readers." I hope so, Mr. Keller.  As long as Mr. Brisbane is the "strongest candidate" out there, he will undoubtedly address the issue most in need of his attention as the "readers' advocate."  If Mr. Brisbane truly is "someone who has the experience, the skills and the license to study our work and pass impartial judgments on it," as Mr. Keller hopes, then he will pass judgment on his very own position and the Times' detrimental misrepresentation of its readership.  Let's see, shall we?
Tags: General, Media