New York Times writer John Eligon wrote an obituary column ahead of Michael “Mike” Brown‘s funeral this past Monday in where he used the terms “no angel” in reference to the slain teen. After coming under fire on social media and abroad, Eligon admitted that his choice of words was poor.
Sitting with the Times‘ Public Editor Margaret Sullivan, Eligon, a 31-year-old Black man, stepped up to offer his view of why he used the words and that he meant no offense in using them. Eligon didn’t shy away from the barbs that came in droves in moments after his piece went public, and said that he understood why the reaction was strong as it was.
More from the Times:
“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.
In general, he said, the profile was a “full, mostly positive picture” of the young man.
Sullivan also spoke with the Times‘ National Editor Allison Mitchell, who defended Eligon’s obituary by saying it was a “sensitive, nuanced account of this young man” and not a call for Brown to have been shot and killed on August 9 in Ferguson, Mo.
Eligon’s side of the story and the Times‘ examination of the situation can be read in full here.