In a step to become more transparent and accountable, The Globe and Mail has appointed its first public editor. According to a memo sent to all staff and executives by editor-in-chief John Stackhouse on Monday, current associate editor Sylvia Stead will start in the new position at Canada's largest national newspaper on Jan 23.
The role is unlike that of most other public editors, though. Stackhouse writes: "The public editor will report to the editor-in-chief as well as hold dotted-line responsibility to the publisher to ensure any needed autonomy from the newsroom." As Craig Silverman noted when he broke the announcement on Poynter, traditionally an ombudsman reports primarily to the publisher and not editorial staff.
When asked to clarify what this "dotted-line responsibility" between public editor and publisher will entail, Stead told J-Source that it meant she "can report to the publisher on issues as needed."
Stead wrote in an email that, similar to other public editors, her duties will include “addressing issues of journalistic integrity, investigating complaints, responding to readers, explaining our work … working with industry groups and managing legal concerns.” Where the public editor's comments will appear is still to be determined, she said, though it would be "probably online perhaps in a blog."
As for why The Globe decided to create the new role now, Stackhouse writes, "Credibility and trust have always been essential to the Globe, but never more so than now as technology and media behaviour open more and more doors to both questionable conduct and public scrutiny."
Read Silverman’s report to get Organization of News Ombudsmen executive director Jeffrey Dvorkin’s take on the unusual relationship between The Globe's public editor and editor-in-chief.
UPDATED: 10 a.m. Jan 18 to include comment from Stead.