NYT: Bring Back A STRONG Public Editor

NYT: Bring Back A STRONG Public Editor

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Eric Schmeltzer started this petition to New York Times and

The New York Times is a vital institution, as the paper of record in the United States.  Many of its reporters (a number who have won Pulitzers) do great work.  And yet, the paper is not perfect.

Editorial decisions, especially in political reporting, have been highly criticized by (among others) people on social media. And, while it may be silly to say social media commentary should matter, the then-publisher of the paper, Arthur Sulzberger once remarked, "Our 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."

He said this when he killed the position of Public Editor.

Rather than be responsive to critiques of those on social media, New York Times editors and reporters have circled the wagons against social media criticism, and pushed back against it, without any acknowledgement that readers may have a point, in their complaint.

The result is that similar errors in judgment have been made again and again.

Those of us who appreciate the Times, and the reporters themselves, clearly do not have any kind of oversight, or voice, and aren't any kind of watchdog with sway, despite Sulzberger's promise.

Therefore, until and unless the paper institutes a meaningful way to absorb, consider, and give real power to social media complaints (including, but not limited to, ordering reporters and editors to not instinctively push back against them), we petition the New York Times to reestablish the position of Public Editor. This Public Editor should have the power to:

- Solicit reader complaints, to investigate;
- Write critiques of the paper's reporting and editorial decisions, independently;
- Compel reporters and editors to answer questions about their decisions on what to include (and not include) in their pieces, as well as answer questions about their news gathering and fact checking; 
- Report on decisions made by editors to change procedure, decision-making, etc, in response to criticism.

Recognizing that no Public Editor is going to be perfect, and that the paper may have a legitimate argument for firing a particular one, we petition the New York Times to give the final word on firing a Public Editor to... the public. If the New York Times publisher believes a Public Editor must be removed, he or she must:

- Write a piece explaining his or her position
- Allow the Public Editor to write a public response
- Survey NYT's subscribers to make the final decision on whether they want, or do not want, the Public Editor to continue in the role.

In this way, the Times can show readers that it is not above critique, that it wants to be responsive to readers' complaints, and that it does not believe, any longer, that the job can be left up to Twitter and Facebook.

If the Times does that, we believe they will instill more confidence in the paper, which will benefit readers, and journalists, alike.

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