CJR’s Elizabeth Spayd named New York Times public editor

May 18, 2016

Elizabeth Spayd, editor and publisher of CJR, has been named public editor of The New York Times, according to a news release. She’ll start in the new role this summer. 

Spayd’s experience “will serve us well as she assumes this critical position serving as a reliable and engaged representative of our readers,” Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. said in a statement. “[Spayd] is also a digital pioneer and I fully expect that she will continue to extend the reach and influence of the role of public editor by engaging in a continuing conversation about Times journalism with all interested parties, wherever we might find them.”

Spayd will be the Times’ sixth public editor, replacing Margaret Sullivan, who recently joined The Washington Post as a media columnist before the end of her four-year term as the Times’ reader representative. Sullivan brought the public editor role renewed relevance in the digital age, commenting on the news organization’s journalism in both a Sunday print column and quick-turn analyses online. 

Spayd, a former managing editor of The Washington Post, joined CJR in 2014 and has overseen its dramatic reorientation from a bimonthly print magazine to a more nimble, digitally focused publication. CJR has steadily grown its audience while reducing print production to twice-yearly special issues. The first edition under this new publishing schedule, themed to the 100th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prizes, will launch later this month.

“It’s an exceptionally dynamic time in journalism, and I’ve been fortunate to have watched it unfold at CJR,” Spayd says. “Of course, these same dynamics are forcing change at the Times and now I’ll get the opportunity to examine how this digital transition is impacting its journalism, standards and most of all its readers. I’m honored to have the job.”

Columbia Journalism School Dean Steve Coll will lead the search for Spayd’s successor alongside CJR board chair Stephen J. Adler, editor in chief of Reuters. 

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“I’m deeply grateful to [Spayd] for leading CJR to a digital-first strategy with an improved print journal,” Coll writes in an email. “It was complicated work but she did it brilliantly. She has overseen great growth in CJR’s digital reach and overall influence and positioned the review for another generation of leadership. The Times is lucky to have her.” 

This post was updated with a quote from Columbia Journalism School Dean Steve Coll.

David Uberti is a writer in New York. He was previously a media reporter for Gizmodo Media Group and a staff writer for CJR. Follow him on Twitter @DavidUberti.