On Monday, as the world watched Michael Brown’s funeral in St. Louis and mourned with his family, the New York Times published an article about Brown’s life that didn’t sit well with too many people. The article, penned by John Eligon, covering the killing of Brown by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, received tons of negative feedback. Eligon described Brown as “no angel” and pointed out that he dabbled in drugs, alcohol and rap music.
In the same vein, the New York Times also ran an article about Wilson, in which more polite phrases, such as “well-mannered,” were used to describe the embattled police officer, whose career has had its fair share of bumps.
Demonizing Brown while painting a picture of Wilson as an “angel” set off a fiery barrage of comments and criticism toward Elgion and the New York Times.
In response to the criticism, the New York Times posted another article in which Margaret Sullivan, the Times’ public editor, tried to explain the motives behind the article. Eligon also admitted his errors when it came to the words used to describe Brown.
“I understand the concerns, and I get it,” Eligon said. He explained that the words were used to correspond with the angelic vision Brown had in the opening of the article. Eligon stated that maybe he should have used the phrase “wasn’t perfect.”
“Hindsight is 20-20. I wish I would have changed that,” he said.
Referring to the running of the post on the day of Brown’s funeral, Sullivan admitted that it wasn’t a good idea and called it a “regrettable mistake.”
A lot of people wondered why and how Elgion, a black journalist, could further victimize Brown, especially assuming that, growing up, Elgion, too, might have been “no angel.” Although Elgion now says hindsight is 20-20, hopefully he realizes that words mean things.