‘NYT’ Names Clark Hoyt New Public Editor

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By: E&P Staff

Clark Hoyt, the longtime editor and most recently Washington chief for Knight Ridder, will become The New York Times’ third public editor, succeeding Byron C. Calame.

A memo sent to staff today by Executive Editor Bill Keller revealed: “In addition to a thick skin, the job calls for a clear head, curiosity, patience and a deep respect for the values we profess — impartiality, fairness, accuracy and independence.

“All of us who have spent time with Clark Hoyt over the past couple of months believe he has those qualities. On May 14, he will become our third Public Editor.”

Keller noted, “As a reporter, he shared a Pulitzer, and as an editor he earned a reputation as a reporter’s editor. Until the sale of Knight Ridder last year, he was, for seven years, the Knight Ridder Washington Editor.” He added: “In that role he presided over a body of aggressive reporting in the runup to the war in Iraq — journalism that has been widely praised for sometimes being more skeptical about the pre-war intelligence than bigger news organizations, including our own.”

An article about the hiring on the Times’ site observes, “In the prelude to the Iraq war and the early days of the war, Knight-Ridder stood apart from most of the mainstream press in consistently raising doubts about the Bush administration?s claims, later discredited, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al Qaeda. Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, said that record contributed to his selection of Mr. Hoyt. ‘There was a lot of work Knight-Ridder did that was prescient, that wasn?t easy to do,’ Mr. Keller said. ?It?s always hard to go against conventional wisdom. I think it probably brings him a measure of credibility that helps in getting started on a job like that, that he?s been associated with a brave and aggressive reporting exercise like that.?

“Mr. Hoyt said that in 2002 and 2003, he fielded a great deal of criticism ‘from angry readers who believed that we weren?t being patriotic, from government officials who said that what we were doing was wrong.’?

The Keller memo follows.

*

This month Barney Calame concludes his tour in what I have occasionally referred to as the most thankless job in journalism. We
recruited Barney to be our Public Editor because of his unquestioned
integrity and his lifelong commitment to the highest standards of
journalism. Through thick and thin, he has demonstrated that integrity and that commitment. The job may be thankless, but Barney is not: I’m immensely grateful for the great service he has performed for this paper.

As my job description suggests, high on the list of attributes we look for in our public editors is the ability to stand up gracefully under fire. In addition to a thick skin, the job calls for a clear head, curiosity, patience and a deep respect for the values we profess — impartiality, fairness, accuracy and independence. All of us who have spent time with Clark Hoyt over the past couple of months believe he has those qualities. On May 14, he will become our third Public Editor.

Clark has spent 38 years with Knight Ridder newspapers as a reporter,
editor and executive. As a reporter, he shared a Pulitzer, and as an editor he earned a reputation as a reporter’s editor. Until the sale of Knight Ridder last year, he was, for seven years, the Knight Ridder Washington Editor. In that role he presided over a body of aggressive reporting in the runup to the war in Iraq — journalism that has been widely praised for sometimes being more skeptical about the pre-war intelligence than bigger news organizations, including our own.

I don’t intend to reconstruct the selection process, but I can say that we had no shortage of candidates. I can say that after much discussion
about the nature of the job, we decided that we preferred to continue the practice of selecting someone from outside, although we had excellent prospects from within The Times family. We wanted someone with a deep understanding of how serious news organizations work, although he will be examining a news organization that is evolving into something of a print-digital hybrid, with all the challenges that presents.

We expect him to hold us accountable to our own standards, to serve
as an advocate for the interests of readers, and to give readers an
independent eye into the workings of this great news organization.

Clark will take the job for a fixed term of two years, with the clock to start running after a few weeks of orientation. I hope you’ll all join me in giving him a warm welcome.

Best, Bill

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