NY Times in spotlight as ex-BBC chief takes reins

PTI New York | Updated on March 12, 2018

Former BBC chief Mark Thompson assumed his new role at The New York Times Co today amid questions about whether the crisis engulfing the British broadcaster would spill over to the US news organisation.

Thompson, named in August as the US media firm’s President and Chief Executive, remains part of the news even though he has denied any role in shelving an investigative report into sex abuse by the late BBC star Jimmy Savile.

The Times has reaffirmed support for Thompson and he has said the scandals at the BBC would not affect his new job.

But as Thompson was readying his entry in New York, his successor as BBC Director-General, George Entwistle, resigned on Saturday after the broadcaster’s flagship news programme wrongly implicated a British politician in a separate child sex abuse scandal.

“Like many people, I’m very saddened by recent events at the BBC but I believe the BBC is the world’s greatest broadcaster and I’ve got no doubt that it will once again regain the public’s trust both in the UK and around the world,” Thompson told ITV, another British broadcaster, as he entered The Times headquarters.

He added that the scandals and probes at the BBC “will not in any way affect my job” at The Times.

Times Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr last month reaffirmed support for Thompson, saying the ex-BBC chief provided a “detailed account” of his knowledge in the Savile case which showed “he played no role” in the cancellation of the investigative report.

But that has not stopped rumblings inside and outside the prestigious US daily about whether Thompson is the right leader for a news organisation facing its own struggles.

Times business columnist Joe Nocera openly questioned whether Thompson was “the right man for the job” in New York.

“Since early October, all anybody has asked about Thompson are those two most damning of questions: what did he know, and when did he know it?” Nocera wrote in an October 29 column.

“For the sake of Times employees — not to mention the readers who want to see a vibrant New York Times Company — let’s hope his faith in Thompson is warranted. Otherwise, the BBC won’t be the only organisation being asked tough questions about its judgment.”

The Times meanwhile has been placed in an awkward position of writing about a BBC probe and its own top executive’s role in the scandal.

Times public editor Margaret Sullivan said the daily has an obligation to “aggressively cover” the story even if Thompson is part of the news.

Published on November 13, 2012

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