New York Times eliminates its public editor

Pedestrians wait for cabs across the street from The New York Times on May 14, 2014, in New York.

Internal complaints at The New York Times about public editor Liz Spayd had been rumbling for months. | AP Photo

Liz Spayd, under fire for critical columns, is quitting early as the paper plans to cut her position.

The New York Times’ public editor will leave her role on Friday as the newspaper cuts the position entirely.

Liz Spayd, the paper’s sixth public editor, was under fire from some staffers for what they considered overly critical columns about the paper’s news coverage, including one earlier this year that suggested the Times failed to report in 2016 everything that its reporters knew about allegations of Trump campaign contacts with Russia.

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“The responsibility of the public editor ― to serve as the reader’s representative ― has outgrown that one office,” Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. wrote in a memo to staff. “There is nothing more important to our mission, or our business, than strengthening our connection with our readers. A relationship that fundamental cannot be outsourced to a single intermediary.”

Spayd, a former managing editor of The Washington Post, was in the middle of a two-year contract, set to expire in 2018. The Huffington Post first reported on Spayd’s departure.

Spayd said in an email to POLITICO that she will write a final column, but did not comment further.

Internal complaints about Spayd had been rumbling for months. Though all public editors are, to a certain degree, unpopular within their own newsrooms, the disapproval with Spayd was particularly pronounced.

Times editor Dean Baquet called her piece on the paper’s coverage of Trump and Russia “a bad column.”

Other staffers objected to a piece criticizing young reporters for tweeting indiscriminately, while still others citing “unnecessary” columns like one chiding the Sports section for favoring features over news and game stories.

“There’s this extra edge to it,” one Times reporter said, referring to the animosity toward Spayd.

“I’ve never seen it like this,” said an editor.

“Some people in the building think, with Twitter, do we even need it?” the reporter added.

That’s the direction the Times is going in — letting the public serve as the public editor, a position created at the Times in the wake of the Jayson Blair plagiarism scandal in 2003.

“[T]oday, our followers on social media and our readers across the Internet have come together to collectively serve as a modern watchdog, more vigilant and forceful than one person could ever be. Our responsibility is to empower all of those watchdogs, and to listen to them, rather than to channel their voice through a single office,” Sulzberger said in the memo. “We are dramatically expanding our commenting platform. Currently, we open only 10 percent of our articles to reader comments. Soon, we will open up most of our articles to reader comments. This expansion, made possible by a collaboration with Google, marks a sea change in our ability to serve our readers, to hear from them, and to respond to them.”

One source familiar with the decision said it had nothing to do with complaints about Spayd or her performance.

But the decision didn’t sit well with one former public editor — former Buffalo News editor Margaret Sullivan — who suggested that only a dedicated staff member could fully hold editors’ “feet to the fire.”

“I can’t say I’m surprised to see NYT ending public editor position, especially in a time of newsroom cost-cutting and position-trimming,” Sullivan, now a Washington Post media columnist, tweeted. “The one thing an ombud or public editor can almost always do is hold feet to the fire, and get a real answer out of management. The role, by definition, is a burr under the saddle for the powers that be.”

House Democrats: Revoke Kushner’s security clearance

Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., speaks about President Donald Trump's first 100 days, during a media availability on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, April 25, 2017 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who spearheaded the letter, raised similar concerns in April. | AP Photo

More than 40 House Democrats are urging the White House to revoke Jared Kushner’s security clearance “to protect national security” until the FBI resolves its investigation of potential collusion between associates of President Donald Trump and Russian agents.

The lawmakers expressed concern with recent reports of Kushner’s secretive meeting with Russia’s ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, including that he sought a backchannel to the Kremlin that would rely on Russian facilities to avoid detection.

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“While the various congressional and law enforcement investigations continue, the White House should take all possible steps to protect national security including immediately revoking Mr. Kushner’s security clearance,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to White House counsel Don McGahn.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who spearheaded the letter, raised similar concerns in April, when reports indicated Kushner had omitted the Kislyak meeting from his application for a security clearance.

“Multiple reports now say that he discussed opening a secret line of communications that could be monitored by Russian intelligence but not American intelligence, which would be disqualifying,” Beyer said in a statement to POLITICO. “Jared Kushner cannot be trusted.”

It’s a sharp escalation from Democrats aimed at Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law. When Beyer initially raised his concerns in April, just four Democrats joined his call, and they noted that Kushner’s failure to detail his meetings with foreign officials could amount to a felony. This time, at least 41 had signed on by Wednesday evening, and more were expected to add their names by Thursday.

The signers include House Armed Services Committee ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash,), Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) as well as the five signatories on the April letter: Beyer, Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.).

The Trump administration has largely defended Kushner, with top officials emphasizing that backchannels are a routine part of diplomacy. But Democrats note the meetings came after intelligence agencies issued an assessment that Russia had actively interfered in the 2016 presidential election and after the Obama administration had levied sanctions in retaliation.

Bloomberg: ’55 percent chance’ Trump will win reelection

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg thinks there’s a “55 percent chance” President Trump will be reelected in 2020.

Bloomberg, who politically identifies as independent, told New York Times columnist Frank Bruni that he thought Democrats didn’t have an effective message to win the 2016 election and could repeat that mistake in 2020.


“Hillary said, ‘Vote for me because I’m a woman and the other guy’s bad,’ ” Bloomberg said about 2016.

He said Democrats are still looking for issues and messages. And he worries that too many Democrats are eager to jump into the 2020 race.

“They’ll step on each other and re-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTech firms push Trump to not withdraw from Paris climate agreement Trump signs waiver keeping US embassy in Tel Aviv Dem senator: ‘Trump is like JFK in reverse’ MORE,” Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonPutin: Election hacks could be work of ‘patriotic minded’ private Russians Biden launches PAC: ‘We’re better than this’ RNC chief: Clinton ‘keeps reinforcing’ why she lost MORE in 2016 and spoke at the Democratic National Convention, calling Trump a “dangerous demagogue.”

Clinton cracks that ‘covfefe’ was Trump’s ‘hidden message to the Russians’

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks to the press at Westchester County Airport September 8, 2016 in White Plains, New York. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

“They wanna influence your reality,” Hillary Clinton said. | Getty

Hillary Clinton joked Wednesday that she took President Donald Trump’s use of the non-word “covfefe” in a late-night tweet as a dispatch to Russia.

Trump tweeted shortly after midnight: “Despite the constant negative press covfefe” — an incomplete thought that had Webster’s dictionary at a loss for words.

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“I thought it was a hidden message to the Russians,” Clinton quipped to Kara Swisher on Wednesday at Recode’s Code Conference.

Clinton later painted “covfefe” as a distraction for the White House.

“You can’t let Trump and his allies be a diversion,” the Democratic presidential nominee warned in response to an audience question. “They are a threat, and they have been effective up until now.”

Clinton highlighted Twitter as the perfect example, suggesting the meaning of the president’s sometimes obscure tweets “drive up the numbers” and cause more people to chase “rabbits down rabbit holes.”

“You’ve got all kinds of stuff happening. Why?” she asked. “To divert attention. It’s like ‘covfefe’ — trending worldwide. Maybe for a minute you’ll forget the latest accusations about them conspiring with Russia or their trillion-dollar mathematical mistake in their budget or depriving 23 million people of health care. You know, it’s the circus, right?”

Clinton contended that “it’s what a classic authoritarian does.”

“It’s not just about influencing your institutions, your values,” she explained. “They wanna influence your reality. And that, you know, that to me is what we’re up against, and we can’t let that go unanswered.”

Hours after Trump blasted “covfefe” into the world’s lexicon, the president deleted the tweet but teased: “Who can figure out the true meaning of ‘covfefe’ ??? Enjoy!”

The White House press corps looked to the administration for answers at Wednesday afternoon’s off-camera briefing, but press secretary Sean Spicer refused to enlighten reporters.

“The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant,” Spicer said, deflecting questions about what the term means.

House Russia investigators subpoena Flynn, Cohen

Michael Flynn and Michael Cohen are pictured.

The panel is also issuing subpoenas to businesses owned by Michael Flynn and Michael Cohen. | Getty

The House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday approved subpoenas for former national security adviser Michael Flynn and President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, as part of the panel’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the presidential election.

The panel is also issuing subpoenas to businesses owned by the two men.