*One day after the New York Times ran a story about Michael Brown, the writer of the piece confessed that he was in the wrong regarding his description of the slain teen.
Responding to a slew of criticism for describing Brown as “no angel,” John Eligon admitted he was at fault for the mistake, which ignited a firestorm of negative feedback.
“I understand the concerns, and I get it,” Eligon told the Times’ public editor, Margaret Sullivan while agreeing that “no angel” was not a good choice of words and explained that they were meant to play off the opening anecdote of the article in which Mr. Brown saw an angelic vision. That anecdote “is about as positive as you can get,”
Looking back on his choice of words, Eligon mentioned that although the anecdote is “is about as positive as you can get,” he stated that a phrase like “wasn’t perfect” would’ve been a better fit to segue into the rest of his story.
“Hindsight is 20/20. I wish I would have changed that,” the writer said.
Eligon’s realization comes as the Times tries to dig itself out of the hole it dug for itself with recent stories on Brown and the police officer who killed him, Darren Wilson. The “no angel” description, coupled with references to Brown “dabbling” with drugs, alcohol and rap music, was enough to set readers off and put a negative perception on the publication.
Then there’s the story the Times ran on Wilson, which painted him as a “well-mannered, relatively soft-spoken, even bland person.” The contrast in descriptions, in the eyes of many people, illustrated a long-standing pattern of black victims of crime being maligned in the media. So much so that the controversy overshadowed many positive anecdotes about Brown in Eligon’s story, as noted by the Huffington Post.
Regarding the controversial phrase, Sullivan thought it was “a regrettable mistake.” And that wasn’t her only problem with Eligon’s articles. Sullivan also voiced her opinion of the timing of the Michael Brown story with obvious criticism leveled at the Times’ decision to run the piece on the day the teen’s funeral was taking place.
For more on John Eligon’s mistake in using the phrase “no angel” to describe Michael Brown, click over to the Public Editor blog.
NY Times Writer Contrite for Calling Michael Brown ‘No Angel’ in Controversial Story