NYT PR Defends Decision to Publish the Name of Officer Darren Wilson’s Street

NYT Building

Journalists are supposed to be our storytellers, our soothsayers, our trusted cohorts who are all given carte blanche to walk into our homes or places of employment and give us — as one sage orator once opined — “just the facts, ma’am.” Yet, ethical concerns come into play every day.

This week, the conservative Washington Examiner asked the question: is it ethically acceptable to publish the name of the street on which the key figure in the world’s most controversial story recently bought a home?

Eileen Murphy, VP of corporate communications at the Times, answered “yes” and defended the paper’s decision to do so.

Julie Bosman and Campbell Robertson of the Times wrote a story about Officer Darren Wilson’s “quiet” wedding to another officer just as the grand jury prepared to announce its decision. The story also included this line:

Officer Wilson and Officer Spradling own a home together on Manda Lane in Crestwood, Mo., a St. Louis suburb about a half-hour drive from Ferguson

The Examiner’s post does not concern the larger narrative about Wilson or the recent grand jury decision not to indict him, and the Times did update the story after publication to remove an unedited photo of the subject’s marriage license after noting that it included a full street address (which happened to belong to the law firm responsible for issuing the license):

“Editors’ Note: November 25, 2014
An earlier version of this post included a photograph that contained information that should not have been made public. The image has been removed.”

Yesterday Murphy responded to the Examiner piece, writing:

“The story mentions only the name of the street where the couple have a house and that street has been widely reported on. We originally posted a copy of the marriage license. When it was pointed out that the license contained a street address, we thought the right thing to do was to remove it, so we did.”

What do we think: legitimate ethical query or partisan spin?