- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 30, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) — After an 11-week internal investigation of the Jayson Blair scandal, the New York Times said yesterday it will create the first ombudsman position in its 152-year history and re-examine the newspaper’s policies on datelines, bylines and anonymous sources.

The ombudsman, to be known at the Times as “public editor,” will examine coverage, review reader complaints and write a periodic column in the newspaper, Executive Editor Bill Keller said yesterday, his first day on the job.

In addition, the paper will create two masthead-level jobs for a “standards editor” and an editor to oversee hiring and career development.

The measures come in response to a 94-page report prepared by a committee convened after the Blair debacle. The report, which included a separate section on Blair, “closes a chapter” at the paper, said Alan M. Siegal, Times assistant managing editor and head of the 28-member committee.

“We think it’s our final word,” he said. Mr. Siegal’s committee was assembled after it was revealed the Times had published three dozen stories by Mr. Blair that were plagiarized, inaccurate or otherwise false.

The scandal exposed a discontented staff that had lost confidence in newsroom leadership. The fallout led to the resignations of Executive Editor Howell Raines and Managing Editor Gerald Boyd in June.

Mr. Keller announced yesterday he was adopting some of the Siegal committee’s recommendations immediately, and is pursuing several others.

“The shock to our system — to its morale and reputation — has created an important opportunity. Most important, it has created a consensus for change,” Mr. Keller said in a memo to the staff. All three new jobs should be “refined and filled within the coming weeks,” he said.

In its report, the committee said concerns over diversity may have helped Mr. Blair, who is black, advance at the Times, but said the paper should not turn away from its commitment to a diverse newsroom.

The report found that the “real culprits” in the Blair scandal were “deeply flawed structures, attitudes and processes.” In particular, the committee cited a “failure to communicate” among editors and said that “in the New York Times newsroom, silos had replaced sharing.”

Mr. Keller said the Times would also pursue committee recommendations that the newspaper standardize its policy on anonymous sources, create an annual performance review for its workers and impose more coherent byline policies and enforcement of dateline policies.

Mr. Blair based one account of the Washington-area sniper shootings on anonymous sources; his editors did not know their identities.


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