Howard Kurtz has accused the New York Times of a “reckless move” in identifying the street on which Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson resides. “Journalism is full of close calls. This is not one of them. The Times should apologize,” writes Kurtz.
On Monday, the Times published a scoop by Julie Bosman and Campbell Robertson reporting that Wilson had married fellow officer Barbara Spradling in a “quiet wedding” last month. It noted that the two “own a home together” and identified the town and the name of the street.
Breitbart’s John Nolte writes, “the New York Times had no qualms whatsoever about publishing almost all the information needed for Officer Darren Wilson’s enemies to track him and his wife down at home.” Other outlets, including the New York Post and Fox News, have highlighted the newspaper’s decision. “If anything happens to that man, his family or that home, I hold them — the culpability is with [the New York Times],” said Fox News’s Sean Hannity.
Philip Corbett, the paper’s associate managing editor for standards, tells the Erik Wemple Blog via e-mail: “The Times did not ‘reveal’ anything here. The name of the street was widely reported as far back as August, including in the Washington Post.”
The Post on Aug. 15 published an article on Wilson shortly after his name surfaced as the officer who’d killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. It noted the presence of “[d]ark blue unmarked police cars were parked outside his house” and mentioned the street name. A number of other outlets also traded in information about Wilson’s residence and it has been circulated on the Internet, of course.
When asked whether the standard for publication of a street name is whether others have already revealed it, Corbett replied, “We would have to look at the issue case by case. But if you’re considering whether to withhold information from a story, the question of whether that information is widely available or has been previously reported would certainly be a factor to consider.”
In any story about newlyweds who jointly own a home, it makes sense to describe where that home is located. But the street name? Such detail adds nil news value to a scoop about a man at the center of one of the most contentious news stories of our time. Leave it out.