The New York Times named Margaret M. Sullivan as the newspaper’s new public editor this week — the first woman to hold the position. She will take over for Arthur Brisbane, who has served in the position the last two years, on Sept. 1.
Sullivan has worked for 32 years at the Buffalo News where she became both its first female editor and first female vice president.
Sullivan has signed a four-year contract with the Times, longer than the various two-year contracts of her predecessors. She does have the option of leaving after two or extending to six years. Many reports, including the press release for the New York Times, have hinted that Sullivan will take a “more active online role” than previous public editors.
The Times’ first public editor, Daniel Okrent, suggested in an interview with Poynter in May that he would like to see an end to the “boys’ club” that has been the public editor position. He was quoted as saying, “It would be pretty wonderful if they had woman in the job, frankly.” The previous four hires since the role was created nine years ago have been white males. The position was created in 2003 following the Jayson Blair plagarism case.
Several people raised questions about what impact having a woman in the position would make. Mallary Tenore argued that women bring may bring different sensibilities to the job and that Sullivan’s personal experiences would likely shape her perspectives. In addition to being quoted on the subject in several articles, Sullivan seemed to agree when she addressed this issue herself in a post on the Buffalo News site. She wrote, “Yes, it matters because we bring everything we are to the jobs we do.”
Although she wrote that being a woman doesn’t drive everything she does, Sullivan highlighted several issues she cares about, including equal pay and child care. She also noted her observations and at times frustrations about women’s representation in the news media: “I do like to see women represented in the news media — in images, in quotes, in stories — and I know that they are often underrepresented…And I’ve sometimes been exasperated that the paper’s front page, on a particular day or series of days, has not featured a single photo of a woman, even in a teaser.” (Read her full write-up here.)
Read more about Sullivan through the round-up of articles below:
–The New York Times Names Margaret M. Sullivan Public Editor (New York Times’ press release)
–Times Names Buffalo News Editor as Its New Public Editor (NYT Media Decoder)
–Sullivan looking to ‘unique opportunity’ at NYT (Buffalo News)
–New NYT public editor brings experience, online savvy (Columbia Journalism Review)