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Photo by alextorrenegra / Flickr Creative Commons

The New York Times is removing the highly-visible and often controversial role of public editor, the Times' CEO Mark Thompson announced in an internal memo sent to staff Wednesday. The role was initially created in 2003 in the wake of a plagiarism scandal and has since been filled by six people. The position is currently held by Liz Spayd, whose last day with the paper will be Friday.

Why it matters: As noted by Thompson in his memo, the role of an internal watchdog across many newsrooms has outgrown its original purpose due to the rise of alternative fact-checking outlets in the digital and social media age. While most major national papers had a public editor at some point, many have since removed the position, citing an outdated reason for its existence. The Washington Post, for example, removed the role of public ombudsman in 2013 in replace of a reader representative.

Update: In an article published later Wednesday, The Times says it will also offer buyouts to its newsroom employees, with the hope of peeling back the layers editing they've long championed as a part of its editorial process. This is part of a strategic direction that The Times announced earlier this year to do less with more and focus on digital innovation.

Go deeper

2 hours 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[.]"