The New York Times has named its first ombudsman, filling a position announced three months ago after an internal probe of the Jayson Blair scandal.
DANIEL OKRENT, a former editor of Life magazine and of Time Inc.’s new media operations, will oversee coverage, review reader complaints and write a periodic column in the newspaper, the Times said in an article in Monday editions.
“We wanted someone with the reporting skills to figure out how decisions get made at the paper, the judgment to reach conclusions about whether and where we go astray, and the writing skills to explain all of this to our readers,” said Bill Keller, the paper’s executive editor.
Okrent will fill the position — officially called “public editor” — for an 18-month term beginning Dec. 1.
The paper created the position and two other masthead-level jobs in July, acting on recommendations of a committee formed after the Blair debacle. The Times had published three dozen stories by Blair that were false, plagiarized or inaccurate.
The scandal damaged the paper’s reputation and led to the resignations of the Times’ two top editors, Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd, in June.
Okrent will write columns for the paper’s Week in Review section on Sundays, evaluating the Times’ news coverage and addressing readers’ concerns. Keller and the paper’s other senior editors will not edit Okrent’s columns, the Times said, although his copy will be reviewed for grammar and style.
Okrent, 55, was a founder of New England Monthly in 1984 and was its editor until 1989. He served as assistant managing editor of Life magazine from 1991 to 1992, as its managing editor until 1996, and then worked as the editor of Time Inc.’s new media operations from 1996 to 1999.
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