What role should public editors play in today’s newsrooms?

There’s been a lot of talk about public editors this week after Washington Post media writer Erik Wemple broke the news that Arthur Brisbane would be ending his term as The New York Times' public editor this fall.

The news raises interesting questions not just about what the Times needs in its next public editor, but about the value of public editors in general. What role should public editors play in today’s newsrooms? Are they asking the right questions? What are they doing for readers and the news organizations they work for, and what could they be doing better? 

We explored these questions with Reuters’ Jack Shafer, Poynter's Craig Silverman and Washington Post Ombudsman Patrick Pexton in a live chat.

Silverman wrote about five qualifications that the Times should require of its next public editor. The public editor role, he says, is ripe for disruption: “It needs to move more quickly, publish more frequently online, find new and better ways of engaging with the public and it should avail itself of new storytelling and narrative techniques to deliver reporting and opinion.”

In response to Silverman’s piece, Pexton said that contrary to what some people think, ombudsmen do a lot more than simply write columns.

You can replay the chat here:

  • Mallary Jean Tenore

    As managing editor of The Poynter Institute’s website, Poynter.org, I report on the media news industry, edit the site’s How To section, and moderate the site's live chats. I also help handle the site's social media efforts, and teach social media sessions on the side.


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