The New York Times’ public editor Margaret Sullivan has rendered her verdict on the newspaper’s use of the term “no angel’’ to describe the 18-year-old unarmed black man killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
“Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: That choice of words was a regrettable mistake,’’ Sullivan wrote in her blog.
There was a large outcry over the Times’ description of Michael Brown as “no angel,’’ with some seeing it as an attempt to smear the name of a young man who was shot under questionable circumstances by a police officer on August 9. The officer, Darren Wilson, was also the subject of a Times profile that ran today. By contrast, he was described as “well-mannered, relatively soft-spoken, even bland.’’
Sullivan pointed out that the author of the article, John Eligon, is, like Brown, a black man. Eligon told Sullivan that, in hindsight, he regretted writing “no angel.’’ But while Sullivan didn’t agree with the term, the timing (the profile of Michael Brown appeared on the day of his funeral), or its placement next to a profile of Officer Darren Wilson, she did think the profile itself was “solid and thorough.’’