The Ferguson denouement vindicates journalistic fairness

The Ferguson denouement vindicates journalistic fairness

The public editor of the New York Times, Margaret Sullivan, this morning issued a mea culpa. It needs more culpa.

“In the heat of a very hot news moment last summer, I criticized a Times story about the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.,” she writes. The story, by Frances Robles and Michael Schmidt, accurately reported that “witnesses have given investigators sharply conflicting accounts of the killing…. Some witnesses say that Mr. Brown, 18, moved toward Officer [Darren] Wilson, possibly in a threatening manner, when the officer shot him dead. But others say that Mr. Brown was not moving and may even have had his hands up when he was killed.”

A St. Louis County grand jury declined to hand up an indictment, and a U.S. Justice Department investigation, issued this month, cleared Wilson while finding fault with many of the Ferguson police department’s practices. “Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I want to acknowledge that I misjudged an important element of that story,” writes Sullivan.

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