The people who want to hate the Times will always hate the Times, and there’s nothing I, or Clark Kent if he took my job, can do to prevent that. But they are as much my constituency as anyone else, and just because they hate the paper or may be driven by an extremely partisan point of view doesn’t mean I shouldn’t pay attention to them.
Given the size of the job, does the paper need more than one public editor?
It could expand to as many as you wish. I’m not saying that’s a bad idea. But if you create a bureaucracy, [the paper] will no longer be able to function. This has to be personal. I’m not trying to speak with an Olympian voice on a mountain, the definitive judge of all things journalistic. I say, “Here’s who I am, here’s my personal reaction.”
And why the 18-month tenure with no chance of reappointment?
I want readers to know my future does not depend on what I say. I don’t want them thinking I’m being nice to the Times because I want to keep my job. I can’t keep my job. I’ve said so publicly.
Is there a book in the future about this experience?
Not by me. I won’t do that. Again, that would indicate a level of self-interest that would compromise [my work]. I’m not doing this to advance my career. I have plenty of other things to write about when I’m done with this.
How will you measure your success as the Times’ first public editor?
If they appoint a successor, it will have succeeded. And my successor, if there is one, will know how to do the job. And the people at the Times will know how to deal with it.