When a much-praised reporter for the New York Times was found to have plagiarized and fabricated several reports, the newspaper that still holds a position in the public imagination as being “a paper of record” created its public editor position. The public editor is meant to be a visible face for journalistic ethics, a person who regularly criticized his employer for bias, editorializing the news, and other ethical slips.
Wednesday, the New York Times terminated its contract with Public Editor Liz Spayd for what National Review‘s Kyle Smith calls “resisting the Resistance.” For the foreseeable future, any public editing will be handled by the public in the comment section, about which Alan Jacobs tweeted:
I don’t think the
@nytimes really plans to turn itself into a trollocracy; enabling comments is make-believe “listening to our readers.”
Smith offers several examples of fair-minded comments from Spayd, saying she “did her best to be even-handed in the eleven months she held the job. The angry Left could not forgive this.”
In a column entitled “Why Readers See the Times as Liberal,” she noted that many a liberal and centrist acolyte of the Times told her that they were seeking other outlets for balance. “A paper whose journalism appeals to only half the country has a dangerously severed public mission,” she said. That such a statement is now considered “controversial” does not reflect well on the media.
But maybe the Times doesn’t see a need for a public editor. Maybe it recognizes its innate fairness in every report it prints. I mean, look at the state of journalism today. These guys stick to the facts.