— Amanda Terkel (@aterkel) August 25, 2014
Margaret Sullivan, the New York Times’ public editor, confessed Monday afternoon that a writer’s use of the term “no angel” to describe Michael Brown was “a regrettable mistake” and saying that the 18-year-old killed by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer was no angel seemed “to suggest that this was, altogether, a bad kid.”
New York Times writer John Eligon used the phrase in a profile of Brown published yesterday, and the backlash was profound.
If the NYT thinks Mike Brown was ‘no angel’ for having smoke and drunk before, I wonder how they feel about Obama who used to do coke
— not a Grizzlies fan (@Trisity_) August 25, 2014
The man who killed a teenager led a bland life, but the boy who died was no angel. I see you, @NYTimes.
— Afroanna Puffington (@BabylonSista) August 25, 2014
Hey @nytimes I need to know if I was executed will I be "no angel" in my writeup bc I kiss on the first date & I shoplifted in the 4th grade
— yonce's red solo cup (@pterosaur) August 25, 2014
Very noble of NYT to depict Mike Brown as "no angel" as if EVERY OTHER NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER doesn't "dabble" in the same things. Jesus.
— Anne T. Donahue (@annetdonahue) August 25, 2014
I don't advocate lionizing the dead. But when we write about black men who've been killed by the police, "no angel" carries a new meaning.
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) August 25, 2014
"Mike Brown was no angel". Real quote from the @nytimes. Stay classy, media, stay classy.
— BWD (@theonlyadult) August 25, 2014
I have long suspected I'm no angel. Luckily, no one's seen fit to put 6 bullets into me for it.
— Maaza Mengiste (@MaazaMengiste) August 25, 2014
MoDo has dabbled with drugs, just like Mike Brown. Will NYT report as "news" that she's no angel?
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) August 25, 2014
— Andy Kindler (@AndyKindler) August 25, 2014
— d* (@lilnerdette) August 25, 2014
The author of the piece says, in hindsight, he would have changed the wording:
“I understand the concerns, and I get it,” Mr. Eligon said. He agreed that “no angel” was not a good choice of words and explained that they were meant to play off the opening anecdote of the article in which Mr. Brown saw an angelic vision. That anecdote “is about as positive as you can get,” Mr. Eligon said, and noted that a better way to segue into the rest of the article might have been to use a phrase like “wasn’t perfect.”
“Hindsight is 20/20. I wish I would have changed that,” he said.