The public editor of The New York Times is meant to be the so-called reader's representative -- the official at the paper whose sole job is "to serve as an advocate for the interests of readers," in the words of executive editor Bill Keller. But Times readers -- and Times employees, for that matter -- come in every combination of sex, race and religion, whereas its public editors to date have only come in one flavor: white, middle-aged men.
The paper just named veteran newspaperman Arthur S. Brisbane to the job, replacing Clark Hoyt, who recently finished his term of service. Brisbane is only the fourth person to hold the post at the Times, which didn't see the need for a public editor (which many papers call an ombudsman) until after scandal caused by Jayson Blair's fabrications. Hoyt and his two predecessors, Byron Calame and Daniel Okrent, are all white males.
Although the public editor technically reports only to the paper's readers, not to its executives, Keller was in charge of making the hire. I asked him why a newspaper as committed to diversity as the Times normally shows itself to be has yet to hire a non-white and/or female public editor. "I can assure you that the pool of candidates we considered was large and very diverse, and we gave considerable thought to the issue you raise," he says. "In the end, Art stood out as the strongest candidate. And I fully expect him to represent the interests of all readers."
Art, I think you have your first column topic already.
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