Earns Washington Post

New Washington Post reader representative explains why he won’t be the paper’s ombud

Doug Feaver has no illusions about his new job.

“My primary mission is to respond to readers,” says the Washington Post’s new reader representative.

In other words, he is not an ombudsman.

“This is different — I’m not [charged with] holding the newsroom accountable,” he said in a recent phone interview, adding that “if there were some very difficult subjects that come up, or some obvious matter, I would try to explain how it happened and do the reporting with who is involved, but I wouldn’t be doing what the previous ombudsman was doing.”

Doug Feaver

Feaver started his career at the Post in 1969 and held many roles over the course of 36 years, including executive editor. He at one point wrote the Post’s dot.comments blog, which highlighted reader feedback and discussion. Read more

Reading the newspaper

Washington Post appoints its first ‘reader representative’

Washington Post
Doug Feaver “will serve as an advocate for readers, responding to their questions and concerns,” the Post announced today.

Doug Feaver

Feaver was a career Postie — a reporter and editor for 29 years on the Business, Metro and National desks. He then became executive editor of in 1998 and retired in 2005. He stayed involved for a few more years with a blog called dot.comments that responded to reader comments on the site.

The Post just ended its ombudsman program, replacing it with this new reader representative. Unlike Patrick Pexton and other Post ombudsmen of the past, the reader rep is a Post employee (not an independent contractor) and will not have a regular weekly print column.

It seems the primary outlet of expression for Feaver and assistant reader representative Alison Coglianese will be a blog on Read more


Washington Post’s new ombud replacement ‘sounds like a customer relations person’

Washington Post Publisher Katharine Weymouth announced Friday that the newspaper would not appoint a new ombudsman, because “The world has changed, and we at The Post must change with it.”

The paper will instead appoint a “reader representative” to answer communications from readers. “We know that media writers inside and outside The Post will continue to hold us accountable for what we write, as will our readers, in letters to the editor and online comments on Post articles,” Weymouth wrote.

How’d that go over?

The new job “sounds like a customer relations person,” NPR Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos writes.

As often as not, I disagree with complaints. But by taking them seriously, even those made by advocates, I find that it disarms the critics, or at the very least wins their appreciation.

Read more

Pexton: Ombudsman can get answers from reporters who won’t answer readers

During an exit interview during his last week as The Washington Post’s ombudsman, Patrick Pexton told “Kojo Nnamdi Show” guest host Paul Brown that one of the benefits of his job was that he could get answers from reporters who refused to respond to readers’ emails. In so doing, he echoed a point he made in a column he wrote about leaving, in which he said the ombudsman is “often the newsroom’s backstop,” for reporters who “have more demands on them than ever before to be faster, to write more, to tweet, blog, take photos, videos and all the rest.”

Pexton said he thought the Post had a “slightly wrong emphasis” on digital operations, because print brought in more revenue. The care and feeding of those print readers, he said, was a big part of his day. Read more


Outgoing Washington Post ombudsman: ‘My bet is that this position will disappear’

The Washington Post | Washingtonian | The Wrap
Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron makes a good case against the newspaper hiring another ombudsman, Patrick Pexton reports. Pexton will end his two-year term at the end of February.

For one, he said, it is not as if The Post doesn’t come in for criticism, from all quarters, instantly, in this Internet age. … Secondly, Baron said, there is intense “competition for resources.” … He’s right again. It is likely that Baron will have to make further cuts in The Post’s newsroom. An ombudsman’s salary is like that of a senior editor’s. It’s a tempting target.

Baron was previously the editor of The Boston Globe, which doesn’t have an ombudsman.

I’m not sure an ombudsman focused as heavily as they have been on a weekly column makes sense any longer,” Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt told Harry Jaffe earlier this month. Read more


One month in, Margaret Sullivan talks about the changing role of New York Times Public Editor

A little over a month into her job, Margaret Sullivan has been transforming the traditional role of The New York Times public editor — by blogging almost every weekday and using social media to add a mix of voices and viewpoints to her posts.

Her new role, she says, has reminded her how much she enjoys writing on a regular basis and responding to the news of the day.

“Almost every day I come in and I say, ‘I’m not going to blog today,’ … But I always find something that seems compelling and then I end up writing something,” Sullivan said in a phone interview. “That’s how I feel the most engaged and the most satisfied — if I’m working on something that’s immediate and if I can get it out there on a daily basis, which is certainly something that was true of me when I was a reporter.”

Sullivan said she’s been approaching her coverage of The New York Times as if she were a beat reporter with an opinion to share. Read more


Exit interview: Brisbane says New York Times Public Editor job is ‘not a conversation’

Arthur Brisbane’s New York Times email address has been shut off, and he sounds pretty happy about it.

“I’m trying to decompress,” he told me two days after his stint as the fourth public editor of The New York Times came to an end. “…Yesterday and today are the first two working days that I haven’t had to worry about the e-mail queue and what’s coming in and what’s in the paper, and you know what? I am enjoying it.”

Brisbane spent two years as the Public Editor whose inbox, voicemail and to a lesser extent Twitter account were the designated targets for concerns and complaints about Times journalism. Perhaps he can be forgiven for enjoying the sudden silence of being the former public editor of The New York Times. Read more


Why it matters that The New York Times’ next public editor is a woman

For the last nine years, white men have filled The New York Times public editor position. That will change in September when Margaret Sullivan becomes the Times’ first female public editor. Sullivan was also the first woman to be named editor and vice president of The Buffalo News, where she has worked for 32 years.

When she succeeds Arthur Brisbane as public editor in September, Sullivan will write a print column and is expected to have a more active role online than her four predecessors.

One of the unanswered questions is how Sullivan’s role as a woman could affect her coverage of the Times’ journalism. Sullivan, who has signed on for four years, touched upon this in an interview with my colleague Bill Mitchell:

“I think we all bring all of who we are to our roles.

Read more

New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan signs on for 4 years

The new public editor of the New York Times pitched the paper on two main roles in her application for the job: “smart aggregator” and “forum organizer.”

Margaret M. Sullivan, editor of the Buffalo News since 1999, credits “Blur,” the 2010 book by Tom Rosenstiel and Bill Kovach, for highlighting those roles as essential to journalism in the digital era.

“The criticism and commentary is already going on,” Sullivan said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon. “I want to centralize it in the [public editor’s] blog.” She said she’ll play the role of “forum organizer” by “inviting commentary and letting people use the [public editor’s online] space as a place to come and discuss. And we’ll use multimedia tools to make that happen.”

Unlike the paper’s previous public editors, who worked under variations of two-year contracts, Sullivan has signed on for four years. Read more

1 Comment

New NYT public editor knows what it’s like to be in the hot seat

Nieman Reports
Buffalo News Editor Margaret M. Sullivan, named Monday as the next public editor for The New York Times, writes in the latest issue of Nieman Reports about how she dealt with outrage in Buffalo’s black community that resulted from her paper’s reporting. The essay provides some insight into how she thinks a newspaper should handle public outcry over its reporting — the sort of thing she’ll keep an eye on and be subject to at the Times.

In August 2010, Sullivan writes, eight people were shot at a party in Buffalo; four of them died. All of the victims were black, as was a man who was later convicted of murder.

About a week after the shooting and the same day that the News covered the funeral of one of the victims, the paper published a front-page story with the headline “7 of 8 shooting victims had criminal past.” Read more

Page 2 of 41234