New York Times editors care about listening to readers

The New York Times | Talking Points Memo

Margaret Sullivan’s introductory column lays out her priorities as The New York Times’ public editor: “1. Put readers first … 2. Encourage conversation … 3. Promote transparency and understanding.”

To foster conversation, Sullivan says she is working with The Times to ”make the public editor’s Web page a village square for discussion. I intend to blog frequently and to use social media outlets like Twitter to expand the sphere and invite other voices in.”

Meanwhile, Assistant Managing Editor Jim Roberts tells Talking Points Memo that although he is an active tweeter, one of his favorite ways to use Twitter is to just listen:

I often keep an open feed of @NYTimes mentions, just so that I can see what our readers are talking about. I think that’s a really, really valuable piece of real-time feedback. There are quite often things I see in there where people are either praising, or, you know, in some cases, criticizing our work that I think is very valuable for me to know as an editor.


If Sullivan and Roberts are listening well, they’re hearing a good deal of blowback to the final column from the previous public editor, Arthur Brisbane. Liberals are hopping mad about Brisbane’s assertion that “a kind of political and cultural progressivism” that “virtually bleeds through the fabric of the Times.”

Eric Alterman rebuts the claim:

Brisbane offered up nothing — literally nothing — to support it. … Yes, the Times reflects the views of most urban, educated elites — including those who produce and consume the paper — on “social issues, including gay rights, gun control, abortion and environmental regulation,” according to [former Public Editor Daniel] Okrent. No argument there. But there is more to liberalism than social issues.

Take issues of economics. In this arena, the Times is no more liberal than your average Wall Street banker.

And The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple takes issue with Brisbane’s claim that “developments like the Occupy movement” are treated “more like causes than news subjects.” If that’s the case, Wemple says, “then I don’t want the New York Times spearheading my pet causes. Because the New York Times didn’t exactly hop right on the story of Occupy Wall Street.”

Earlier: Brisbane, Abramson disagree on whether Times’ liberal culture is a problem (Poynter).

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