NYT Public Editor Margaret Sullivan: “I Was Wrong About ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ Coverage”
The New York Times’ public editor on Monday retracted her criticism of the newspaper’s reporting on the Michael Brown shooting, writing that she had “misjudged” witnesses who disputed that the unarmed teen had his hands up when he was shot to death.
Margaret Sullivan wrote that her August 21 column on the Times’ reporting in Ferguson, Mo. “was substantially flawed.”
In that column, the public editor sharply criticized Times reporters’ sourcing of witness accounts of the shooting.
The newspaper had named and quoted witnesses who said Brown had his hands up when white police Officer Darren Wilson shot at him, but it granted anonymity to witnesses who agreed with Wilson’s assertion that Brown had been moving toward him. Sullivan referred to those anonymous witnesses as “ghosts” whom readers would have a hard time believing.
“My post accused The Times of false balance … In retrospect, it’s clear to me that including that information wasn’t false balance. It was an effort to get both sides,” Sullivan wrote.
Her retraction was prompted by a Justice Department report released earlier this month that cleared Wilson of civil rights violations in the fatal shooting.
“Although there are several individuals who have stated that Brown held his hands up in an unambiguous sign of surrender prior to Wilson shooting him dead, their accounts do not support a prosecution of Wilson,” the report read.