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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Ben Smith’s column Sunday night, diving into the saga behind star correspondent Rukmini Callimachi’s reporting on terrorism, is the latest piece of criticism that the New York Times faces from within.

Why it matters: Recent examples of internal critiquing at the Times calls into question whether the Times and other companies should have eliminated the role of public editor.

  • Absent public editors, news giants are left to their readers, Twitter critics and internal voices to hold themselves accountable to their own editorial standards. The Times has established an online "reader center" which it says has helped it make smarter decisions and explain coverage better.

Other examples: Conservative opinion writer Bret Stephens published a critique on Friday of the company's lauded "1619" project for trying to reframe history. The New York Times Guild sent out a tweet denouncing the article, but quickly retracted it and later apologized for the mishap.

  • Earlier this year, the Times' editorial page editor James Bennet resigned after facing backlash from employees for green-lighting an op-ed by conservative Sen. Tom Cotton.

Be smart: A series of social change movements may have also empowered reporters to examine the standards and practices of their own companies.

Our thought bubble: The public editor role was meant to formalize critiques of a company from the inside, so as to avoid awkward disclosures and conflicts of interest. Smith notes that tension in his piece.

  • "Mr. Baquet and Mr. Kahn, I should note here, are my boss’s boss’s boss and my boss’s boss, respectively, and my writing about the Times while on its payroll brings with it all sorts of potential conflicts of interest and is generally a bit of a nightmare."

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1 hour ago - World

Biden freezes U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official tells Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Podcasts

Robert Downey Jr. launches VC funds to help save the planet

Robert Downey Jr. on Wednesday announced the launch of two venture capital funds focused on startups in the sustainability sector, the latest evolution of a project he launched two years ago called Footprint Coalition.

Between the lines: This is a bit of life imitating art, as Downey Jr. spent 11 films portraying a character who sought to save the planet (or, in some cases, the universe).

DHS warns of "heightened threat" because of domestic extremism

Supporters of former President Trump protest inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday issued an advisory warning of a "heightened threat environment" in the U.S. because of "ideologically-motivated violent extremists."

Why it matters: DHS believes the threat of violence will persist for "weeks" following President Biden's inauguration. The extremists include those who opposed the presidential transition, people spurred by "grievances fueled by false narratives" and "anger over COVID-19 restrictions ... and police use of force[.]"