The job of the public editor is to supervise the implementation of proper journalism ethics at a newspaper, and to identify and examine critical errors or omissions, and to act as a liaison to the public. They do this primarily through a regular feature on a newspaper's editorial page. Because public editors are generally employees of the very newspaper they're criticizing, it may appear as though there is a possibility for bias. However, a newspaper with a high standard of ethics would not fire a public editor for a criticism of the paper; the act would contradict the purpose of the position and would itself be a very likely cause for public concern.
Many major newspapers in the U.S. use the public editor column as the voice for their ombudsman, though this is not always so. Public editor columns cover a broader scope of issues and do not have an accreditation process, while in order to qualify as an ombudsman of any standing one must be a member of the Organisation of News Ombudsmen.
At The New York Times, the position was created in response to the Jayson Blair scandal. The Times' first public editor was Daniel Okrent, who held the position from December 2003 through May 2005. Okrent's successor was Byron Calame, who was followed by Clark Hoyt, who held the position for three years. In August 2010, Arthur S. Brisbane assumed the post and held it until 2012, when Margaret Sullivan took the position.
- Vega, Tanzina (16 July 2012). "Times Names Buffalo News Editor as Its New Public Editor". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
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