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With a small amount of public editors left at news organizations, Columbia Journalism Review has created an unofficial team of public editors that will monitor four major American outlets.

“Public editors and ombudsmen have historically stood as critical advocates for consumers of news, identifying blind spots the outlets can’t see themselves and operating as collectors of critical opinion when decisions go awry,” CJR Editor-in-Chief Kyle Pope wrote. In recent years the number of public editors in the media space has shrunk dramatically.

Public editors play an important role in journalism as they supervise the implementation of proper journalism ethics at media outlets. The New York Times let go of its final public editor in 2017, while The Washington Post’s public editor went in 2013. NPR’s Elizabeth Jensen is the last remaining full-time public editor at a major American news outlet.

CJR’s newly appointed public editors will monitor NYT, WaPo, MSNBC and CNN. CJR lists:

  • NYT Public Editor Gabriel Snyder, formerly an editor at The New Republic, The Atlantic, and Gawker, and the author of a 2017 Wired cover story about the Times.
  • The public editor of WaPo is Ana Marie Cox, the founding editor of Wonkette, who has written for GQ, The Daily Beast, and The New York Times Magazine, among other publications.
  • MSNBC’s public editor is Maria Bustillos, the editor in chief of Popula, whose work has appeared in NYT, The New Yorker, Harper’s, and The Guardian.
  • CNN’s public editor is Emily Tamkin, a freelance reporter based in Washington, who previously reported on foreign affairs for BuzzFeed News and Foreign Policy, and whose work has appeared in Politico, Slate, and The Washington Post, among other publications.

They will serve as “watchdogs for the biggest news organizations in the country, they’ll be ready to call out mistakes, observe bad habits, and give praise where it’s due,” according to Pope.

Tamkin has already written her first column in which she calls into question the network’s value to its viewers.

Wayne McKenzie

Wayne McKenzie

Associate Content Manager, Media