By Kathy English for the Toronto Star
Ten years ago this month, I signed on to what would turn out to be the most challenging job of my life in journalism.
I knew that serving as the Star’s public editor would not be an easy task. It is widely regarded as the worst job in journalism and I tell you, there are days when that feels like an absolute truth.
Nevertheless, it was a role I had actually long coveted. Having worked as a reporter and feature writer at the Star in the early days of my career, I knew the Star took seriously the ombud/public editor’s work of holding its journalists to public account for accuracy, fairness and ethical journalism. In working as a journalist and journalism professor, I had long been concerned about the public perception of journalism and believed a public editor could make a difference to the credibility of journalism.
“A newspaper that chooses to employ a public editor makes a strong pledge to its readers of its intent to strive to be faithful to the enduring core values of ethical journalism,” I wrote a decade ago in my first column in this role.
I believed that then and my experience in the job, particularly the opportunity it has given me to communicate with thousands of readers about accuracy, fairness and journalistic standards, makes me believe it more today.
Clearly, I have a conflict of interest in offering a view of the decision announced by the New York Times this week to eliminate its public editor position. I would like to see more public editors and ombudsmen at news organizations, not fewer, especially when reader trust in journalism has plunged to new lows.