Friday Mailbag: A Patriots Photo Lets Trump Score a Point

One reader put the issue succinctly:

Are you trying to give the right wing more to criticize The Times for?

Dan Gerstman, Buffalo

We asked Jason Stallman, the Sports editor, for an explanation.

Bad Tweet by me. Terrible Tweet. I wish I could say it’s complicated, but no, this one is pretty straightforward: I’m an idiot. It was my idea, it was my execution, it was my blunder. I made a decision in about four minutes that clearly warranted much more time. Once we learned more we tried to fix everything as much as possible, as swiftly as possible and as transparently as possible. Of course, at that point the damage was done. I just needed to own it.


Gwinnett County Police Department, via Associated Press

The public editor’s take: Bravo to the Sports editor for his honest response. Regrettably, as the readers say, it gives ammunition to those who doubt The Times’s impartiality in matters of politics.

Last Friday, The Times ran a story on the dismissals of two Georgia police officers two days after they assaulted a man, punching him in the face and kicking him in the head, during a traffic stop. The top of the story featured the professional photographs of the police officers.

The booking photo of the victim, Demetrius Bryan Hollins, was included near the end.

Several readers wrote in to protest the photo choices for the article.

The news story uses professional, smiling photos of the two perpetrators and a mug shot of the (African American) victim. This perpetuates the stereotype of African Americans as violent criminals, even when they are the victims of crimes. I am sure that the Times would have been able to find a more appropriate photo of Mr. Hollins to use for this story.

Beth Davidson, Washington, D.C.

We brought the concern to Beth Flynn, the deputy photo editor, for a response.

The only photos readily available for this piece were the handouts of the police officers and the booking mug of Mr. Hollins. That said, I think there were a few missed opportunities here. One, both (civilian) videos showing the horrific behavior by the police officers during the arrest were accessible online, and we should have made the effort to track down usage rights and add one to the top of the piece. Two, the (smiling) handout images of the officers should never have been the top of the article art. And three, the booking mug of Mr. Hollins, if that is all we had access to, could have been captioned to say he was kicked in the head by officers during the arrest (and then seeing his bleeding face in this picture would have added value). Thanks for sending the note along, this is a good post mortem conversation for our editors.


Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office, via Associated Press

The public editor’s take: Another thanks to an editor with candor…

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