Expurgated or Not Expurgated?

Jim Treacher has apparently caught a rather mysterious editing of one of its articles on the murders at Charlie Hebdo:

When Islamic terrorists expressly tell their victims why they’re being attacked, our mainstream media will do anything to cover it up. They’ll change the subject, they’ll blame the victims… they’ll even stealth-edit* their own copy.
Here’s the latest example of the New York Times censoring itself to avoid offending Muslims after an act of Islamic terror…

In response Joseph Cannon does what appears to me to be a solid job of the tracing the quote in question through French language sources. Here’s his conclusion:

I think that, in the direct aftermath of the event, Vinson gave slightly differing accounts. One can hardly blame her for being frazzled. She may have given a third variant at a later time, and this third variant may be the one published by the New York Times.

That said: I can find no French-language report which agrees with the later NYT story. Google gives us no trace of a French-language account in which the terrorist tells Vinson to calm down and not to be afraid. Times writer Liz Alderman may have acquired her information from a later radio or television interview of Vinson.

If Alderman did alter her original report in a material way, the NYT should should so stipulate.

To Mr. Cannon’s analysis I would add that there’s one legitimate reason the NYT might have removed the portion of the quote in question: if the editors had found that it was not relevant to the story. Was the detail of the terrorist demanding that the woman he frightened into opening the security door at Charlie Hebdo for him that she “convert to Islam, read the Quran and cover yourself” relevant or not? I think it was but I agree with Mr. Cannon that it is a venial sin, one of many committed by the Grey Lady.

Extending Mr. Cannon’s metaphor a bit, one of the reasons that venial sins are worth confessing is that a pattern of venial sins may lead you into mortal sin. What journalistic mortal sin could the NYT’s pattern of venial sin lead it to?

Hat tip: memeorandum


Commenter upyernoz notes that the quote was revised for accuracy and elaborates on that here:

There is Treacher’s answer. That’s why the earlier version of the article included the quote and the later one didn’t. In the interim the Times contacted the witness themselves and she told them the quote was not accurate. That’s not “airbrushing it out” an “inconvenient truth” that’s revising a story to improve its accuracy.

Update 2

A quick check of the Wayback Machine found that at one point the article cited by Mr. Treacher did not include the explanation cited by upyernoz. The Times, too, apparently found that the edit required some explanation.

7 comments… add one
  • Actually, if Treacher had read the revised NYT story he would found out why the quote was changed. See my post here.

  • Thanks, upyernoz. Good feedback.

  • Jim Treacher Link

    The word “actually” is reserved for things that are actual.

    If Vinson changed her statement, that’s part of the story. And if the Times is saying RFI got it wrong, RFI should have a chance to respond.

  • CStanley Link

    It seems like a pretty relevant part of the story to me. She survived, not through happenstance or by hiding herself, but because the killers deliberately spared her. The “why” of that is important.

    If she first said one thing and then retracted it, that might be relevant too. If instead the initial quote was obtained through a different media outlet and later found to be in accurate, then the NYT should include that explanation because it is a different situation than would be the case if the quote was accurate but then retracted.

  • It seems to me the least the Times should have done was to introduce something along the lines of

    “a previous version of this story included statements attributed to Ms. Vinson that she has subsequently denied uttering”

    rather than just quietly editing the story.

  • steve Link

    “It seems to me the least the Times should have done”

    Absolutely. Otherwise, paranoid right wingers will make up their own version of the story.

  • ... Link

    Muslims go on a religious killing spree. Media starts changing the story w/o making note of it (until forced to do so). Clearly, the problem is with those awful white conservatives! You know, like how the real threat in Europe is the Islamaphobes, not the people shooting up the place.

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