Why Did the New York Times Change Their Brooklyn Bridge Arrests Story?


The above photo of juxtaposed screenshots from the New York Times website has been making the rounds on Facebook, and it shows two very different takes for the same story on yesterday’s Brooklyn Bridge arrests. The screenshot on the left, from 6:59 p.m., appears to reflect what many protesters are saying: The police tricked them into marching on the bridge. At 7:19 p.m., any mention of the police allowing demonstrators onto the bridge was removed from the lede. Why did they make this change?

We asked City Room Bureau Chief Andy Newman, and he said the following:

At every point yesterday as the story unfolded, we offered the most complete account we could of a large and chaotic scene that could not be grasped by any one person. The earlier version had almost no input from the police. The later version reflected the accounts of the police, protesters and of course our reporters at the scene. The later version, read in its entirety (not just the one highlighted sentence in that photo), reflected the various perspectives much more thoroughly. The final version of the piece was more thorough still.

It’s worth noting that one of their reporters at the scene, freelancer Natasha Lennard, was among the over 700 arrested. The original City Room report that Lennard contributed to says that police did in fact allow protesters onto the bridge:

After allowing marchers from the Occupy Wall Street protests to claim the Brooklyn-bound car lanes of the Brooklyn Bridge and get partway across, the police cut the marchers off and plunged into the crowd and began making arrests around 4:15 p.m. Saturday.

That paragraph is now nowhere in the story. Currently, the only mentions in the piece of police telling protesters they were allowed onto the bridge are in the words of the protesters themselves.

The Times published a post, “Police Gave Warnings at Bridge, Videos Show”, that features footage released by the NYPD. They say the clips “show the police issuing two separate warnings to marchers who were either poised to cross the Brooklyn Bridge on its roadway, rather than the pedestrian walkway, or had already begun doing so.”

While the NYPD videos certainly represent the “input from the police,” they may raise more questions than they answer. Animal New York‘s Bucky Turco tweeted that the second video above appears to be edited at the 29-second mark. How much was edited is unknown, but the footage certainly does jump.

Because this is an ever-evolving story, the original City Room piece is subject to change. As of right now, the last update was posted at 1:23 this afternoon. The current text for the story on the site’s front page is still, “In a tense showdown on Saturday, police arrested Occupy Wall Street demonstrators after they entered the bridge’s Brooklyn-bound roadway.”

Most Popular