Mark Thompson may not be right person to run New York Times, says senior editor


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The Independent Online

A senior New York Times editor has voiced concerns about Mark Thompson, the paper's incoming chief executive and former BBC boss, who was in charge when Newsnight shelved a report into sexual abuse claims against Jimmy Savile.

Mr Thompson, who is due to take over at the New York Times Company next month, has said he was not told about the Newsnight investigation until after it had been axed, nor was he involved in the decision to drop it.

The former BBC Director-General claims to have become aware of the investigation only later, when the subject was brought up by a BBC correspondent at a drinks reception in December 2011.

But the readers' ombudsman at The New York Times raised a series of troubling questions about Mr Thompson's appointment to one of the most coveted jobs in the US media. The questions came as the newspaper was reported to have dispatched a journalist to London to look into the Savile scandal.

In a posting on the paper's website, Margaret Sullivan, the public editor, said: "It's worth considering now whether he is the right person for the job, given this turn of events." She suggested that it was time to ask a number of questions, including: "How likely is it the [New York] Times Company will continue with its plan to bring Mr Thompson on as chief executive? (It's worth noting that as public editor, I have no inside knowledge on such corporate matters.) His integrity and decision-making are bound to affect The Times – and its journalism – profoundly."

She said the paper needed to scrutinise what Mr Thompson knew, and when, about what happened at the BBC. It was also incumbent on it to consider the implications of his appointment, given he was arriving with "so much unwanted baggage".

The paper could not immediately be reached for comment yesterday.