The folks at the New York Times must believe not only that their reporters are entitled to inject their opinions into hard-news stories, but that they can also inject their own "facts." Oh, and they can change those facts at will over time to fit the circumstances.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg's Wednesday story about the city's $6.4 million settlement with the family of Freddie Gray appearing in Thursday's print edition is a perfect case in point. Stolberg recast events following Gray's death to claim that there was only one night of rioting, when there were clearly two — even though contemporaneous coverage at the Times itself identified two separate nights of riots.
Here is the passage in question in Stolberg's Wednesday story:
Mr. Gray was arrested April 12 in Sandtown-Winchester, a blighted neighborhood of boarded-up rowhouses in West Baltimore. His death on April 19 set off nearly two weeks of largely peaceful protests, followed by a night of looting and arson. It also opened a deep wound in Baltimore, a majority black city with an African-American mayor and a history of tensions between black residents and the police.
Stolberg's historical revisionism would have readers believing that one night of "looting and arson" — known to most of us as "rioting" — took place on or shortly before May 3, two weeks after Sunday, April 19.
The stubborn facts Stolberg deliberately ignored — I say it's deliberate because she was in Baltimore during the time period in question, and it's virtually inconceivable that she is unaware of the items I am about to present — include the following:
- The Associated Press and countless other news outlets reported, in the AP's words (as noted at a related NewsBusters post), that "protests ... turned violent in downtown and west Baltimore on Saturday night and early Sunday morning," April 25 and 26. That's six days later, not two weeks.
- The AP, the Times and most other establishment press outlets completely ignored Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's direct and admitted contribution to the breakdown in civil order in a press conference, properly characterized as a riot, on April 26:
Transcript (bolds are mine):
"... and I've made it very clear that I work with the police and instructed them to do everything that they could to make sure that the protesters were able to exercise their right to free speech."
"It's a very delicate balancing act, because while we try to make sure that they were protected from the cars and the other, y'know, things that were going on, um, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well. And we, uh, work very hard to keep that balance and to put ourselves in the best position to de-escalate, and that's what you saw."
A graphic contained in Stolberg's April 25 story from Baltimore described what occurred as "riots":
- A second night of even worse rioting, largely organized by high school students on social media, took place on Monday, April 27.
- Readers not aware of the previous history will believe that Baltimore's only night of rioting took place on or just before May 3. Sunday, May 3 is only peripherally relevant, in that Major League Baseball's Baltimore Orioles, as a result of the rioting and a lack of confidence that matters were under control, lost six fan-attended games at Camden Yards, up to and including Sunday, May 3. Five games were cancelled, and one game was played without fans in attendance.
There's much more to be written on the Old Gray Lady's and the rest of the press's coverage of the Freddie Gray settlement itself. But for now, readers should know that Sheryl Stolberg and her paper don't even seem to care when their current "facts," apparently presented to cast events as not having been as serious as they really were, directly contradict their own original coverage.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.