Margaret Sullivan Took The New York Times Public Editor Role Into The Digital Age

She's ending her four-year term early, taking her expertise to The Washington Post where she’ll be a media columnist.

NEW YORK -- New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan will join The Washington Post later this year as a media columnist, ending a nearly four-year run as the paper's in-house watchdog.

The Times created the public editor position in the wake of the 2003 Jayson Blair scandal, and Sullivan, a former top editor of The Buffalo News, became the fifth journalist to take on the role in July 2012. Though some of Sullivan's predecessors wrote online, previous Times public editors still largely reserved judgement on journalistic issues for a weekly print column.

Sullivan, too, wrote a column, but also radically updated the role for the digital age by quickly addressing Times-related controversies and debates in real time and actively engaging on social media.

She launched recurring features that included reader feedback, such as "AnonyWatch," which tracked questionable instances of Times reporters granting anonymity, and "Monocle Meter," a rating system for the paper's trend stories.

Times chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. acknowledged this shift during Sullivan's tenure in a Monday memo to staff.

"When she was appointed public editor in 2012, we hoped that Margaret would take on a more active role as the initiator, orchestrator and moderator of an ongoing conversation about The Times's journalism for the benefit of our readers," Sulzberger wrote. "She has ushered the position into a new age."

Sulzberger wrote that the "difficult task" of replacing Sullivan, who was slated to leave when her four-year term expired in August, "is already well underway."

"We will be in a position to name Margaret's successor very soon," Sulzberger said.

At the Post, Sullivan will write a weekly Style section column that "will encompass everything related to digital media, and how that transformation is affecting people’s lives and work, along with journalism, news literacy, privacy and free speech, and media personalities," Liz Seymour, the paper's executive features editor, wrote in a Monday memo.

Seymour wrote that Sullivan "has a broad mandate to cover media through a variety of formats, everything from a column to blog posts off the news to deeply reported stories."

Sullivan joins a Post staff that already features several media writers working in various sections of the paper.

Veteran media reporter Paul Farhi also writes for Style, while media critic Erik Wemple is based in the Opinion section. In October, the Post hired Boston Globe reporter Callum Borchers for a new position covering media and politics for The Fix, the politics vertical launched and run by Chris Cillizza.

Watch Sullivan discuss her role as public editor on CNN:

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