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.
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.