Meet the New Public Editor, Same as the Old Public Editor?

The Times has chosen a new public editor to replace overly loyal company man Barney Calame, Clark Hoyt, who was Washington bureau chief for the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain until the paper was sold last year to the McClatchy Co. He'll start his new job May 14.

From Richard Perez-Pena's in-house story:

"Mr. Hoyt said that he could not predict what subjects he might focus on. 'They are likely to be driven by what readers care about and complain about,' he said.

"But over the last year, he has spoken publicly about his concerns about the future of the newspaper industry, arguing that weakening finances, a toxic partisan atmosphere and coziness with government officials threaten to undermine journalistic courage and integrity. He also spoke before a Congressional committee, arguing for a stronger Freedom of Information Act."

Stephen Spruiell at National Review Onlineinterprets that this way:"So, right away, not much space between Times management and its new in-house critic."

Perez-Pena cited Executive Editor Bill Keller taking a liking to Knight-Ridder's war skepticism: "In the prelude to the Iraq war and the early days of the war, Knight-Ridder stood apart from most of the mainstream news media in raising doubts at times about the Bush administration's claims, later discredited, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al Qaeda Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, said that record contributed to his selection of Mr. Hoyt."

(Have Hussein's ties to Al Qaeda really been "discredited," as the Times confidently claimed? The Clinton Administration didn't think so - in fact, it used them as justification for bombing a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan. And Bush was not the only one who thought Hussein had weapons of mass destruction - so did most foreign intelligence agencies and Democrats in Congress.)

Back to Hoyt. Here's a revealing excerpt from the Stanford University campus paper's coverage of a journalism talk delivered by Hoyt last May. Even correcting for a presumed liberal bias in the paraphrasing of Hoyt's remarks on the part of student reporter James Hohmann, Hoyt seems to take a pretty stark us-against-them attitude toward the Bush administration.

"Hoyt faulted the Bush administration for curtailing access and punishing journalists who dare question spoon-fed conservative talking points....'Not since Vietnam and Watergate have relations between the government and the press been as strained as they are now,' he added. 'Powerful forces are very much against our getting the truth and printing it.'

"Hoyt praised his bureau for its skepticism of the administration's claims about Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction even as other elite news outlets accepted what White House officials told them."