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The Washington Post beefed up its media stable considerably this morning with the announcement of Margaret Sullivan as a media columnist. She’s been the New York Times public editor for three-and-a-half years and was slated to continue in that role until August. She’ll leave early and start at the Post this spring, according to a memo from Liz Seymour, executive features editor.
With two excellent media writers already—former Washington City Paper Editor Erik Wemple writing for Opinions and Paul Farhi writing for Style—it would seem that adding another high-profile talent would make things a little crowded. Seymour says no.
“I do not see the roles of Erik Wemple or Paul Farhi changing at all. We are adding resources to one of the most important and compelling beats that a newsroom can cover, and we are thrilled that a talent like Margaret Sullivan can bring even more coverage of the media to our readers,” Seymour tells City Paper.
Sullivan was the first female public editor at the Times and received generally high marks for her tenure. She was not afraid to call the paper on the carpet when she felt it could have done better with its Flint stories or when critics questioned its highest-profile work. She’s also been vocal about problems with the Times‘ use of anonymous sources, too.
She’ll write a weekly column, but Seymour says she won’t be confined to it.
Here’s the memo in full:
I am thrilled to tell you that Margaret Sullivan, the public editor of the New York Times, will be joining The Post later this year as our media columnist.
Margaret is a superb journalist who has witnessed the dramatic changes in our industry up close through her work at the Times, where she writes a column twice a month and blogs frequently on reader concerns and Times journalism. She has been public editor for three and a half years, longer than all of her predecessors, and has surely been the most digital. As anyone who has been a public editor or ombudsman can attest, it’s a tough job. And she has been fearless in her approach to it.
She is overflowing with story ideas about the rapidly changing media environment and has a broad mandate to cover media through a variety of formats, everything from a column to blog posts off the news to deeply reported stories.
But the centerpiece of her work will be a weekly column. It will encompass everything related to digital media, and how that transformation is affecting people’s lives and work, along with journalism, news literacy, privacy and free speech, and media personalities. Margaret is a huge consumer of culture, especially pop music, literary fiction, theater, art, and movies, and will pull these elements into her column.
She has had a long and distinguished career in journalism, mostly at the Buffalo News, where she was editor and vice president for 12 years. She started at the News, her hometown paper, as an intern in 1980 and was the first woman editor and, previously, the first woman managing editor. She also served as a reporter and a columnist.
A native of Lackawanna, NY, she is a graduate of Georgetown University and of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, where she is a member of its Hall of Achievement.
Margaret is excited to be joining our newsroom, she said, because its “leadership, ambitions, and journalistic excellence make it a very cool place to be.” I couldn’t agree more and am honored she is joining Features.
She will be moving to the area and starting work in the spring. Please welcome her to The Post.
Photo courtesy Washington Post