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NPR tried to preempt itself from future criticism by including a bizarre disclaimer on a widely disingenuous report it published about the shooting death of Ma’Khia Bryant that’s now being protested by activists.
Following the shooting Tuesday of Bryant, a 16-year-old Ohio girl who was fired upon by an officer when she allegedly tried to stab another girl, NPR published a write-up that included a warning that some of the “facts” contained in the story might be ‘wrong.”
“This is a developing story. Some facts reported by the media may later turn out to be wrong. We will focus on reports from police officials and other authorities, credible news outlets and reporters who are at the scene, and we will update as the situation develops,” the stunning warning read.
The outlet’s original report did not mention the bodycam footage.
Disclaimer from NPR on its article (which hasn’t yet been updated with new information regarding the body cam video) regarding the Ma’Khia Bryant shooting notes that “facts reported by the media may later turn out to be wrong”https://t.co/mXDPbTS26Y pic.twitter.com/41AKRrTfrI
— Shelby Talcott (@ShelbyTalcott) April 21, 2021
The story was subsequently updated once on Wednesday. As of Thursday morning, the actual story appeared accurate, though there were some issues.
For one, the lede was buried.
“A 16-year-old Black girl was fatally shot by an officer outside her home after she called the police for help on Tuesday afternoon, according to her family,” the piece began.
Not until the eighth paragraph did NPR mention that Bryant had been wielding a knife. And even then, the reporting was stunningly vague.
Instead of describing in its own words how Bryant had been wielding a knife, the outlet framed the observation in the words of Interim Columbus Police Chief Michael Woods.
“Woods said the [bodycam] video shows Bryant holding a knife as she pushes two girls. He said police believe she is attempting to stab both girls during the fight,” NPR reported.
Yet by the time NPR updated its piece Wednesday, the bodycam footage had already been released and gone viral on social media. So why did the network not just describe the video itself?
Dashcam released: Protests erupt after Ohio cop shoots, kills suspect to save teen from stabbing https://t.co/clYtsZhiV6
— Bo Snerdley (@BoSnerdley) April 21, 2021
Later in the piece, NPR finally used its own words to describe some of what had transpired, yet its description seemed highly disingenuous.
“As the officer approaches her, a knife can be seen close to her,” the outlet reported.
Not mentioned by NPR was the fact that the knife was “close to her” because she was literally holding it in her hand.
As for its disclaimer, NPR later issued a statement to Shelby Talcott of The Daily Caller claiming that it’s been applying a disclaimer to breaking news stories since 2016.
Interesting: NPR tells me it often adds this disclaimer to certain articles. Here’s the reasoning pic.twitter.com/zubl8Wnckf
— Shelby Talcott (@ShelbyTalcott) April 21, 2021
“NPR has added disclaimer language to developing stories since June of 2016 during the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. We believe responsible news outlets should acknowledge that reports can change as stories develop and more facts become known,” a spokesperson told Talcott.
“We are thinking of our audience: we want readers to know they’re getting the best information we have at the time & that it will continue to be updated as more facts are gathered. This note is even more important now when people are inundated with information from so many sources.”
When the disclaimer was used in a Google search, 39 results popped up:
The network also faced criticism for the headline it used to share its story on Twitter.
“Police Released Edited Video Of Officer Shooting 16-Year-Old Black Girl,” the stunning headline read.
The headline provoked accusations that the outlet was peddling “divisive misinformation.”
Ma’Khia Bryant, a Black teenage girl, was shot and killed by a white police officer in Columbus, Ohio, after she called 911 for help when a group of “older kids” threatened her, according to her family.https://t.co/W1PJ06rt8L
— NPR (@NPR) April 21, 2021
Any fact checkers around? @NPR want to Walk back that race baiting divisive misinformation headline, which will now most likely cause more division and people to riot @TwitterSupport care to suspend this account for promoting misinformation? pic.twitter.com/M23MZt8kP2
— BagHolderMcGee (@jonnytrades93) April 21, 2021
Why does your headline say edited vidieo like the police are covering something up It clearly shows one girl trying to kill another girl this is why the USA is so dividend report facts not fiction.
— David Clarke (@DClarkey1969) April 21, 2021
She was 2 inches from stabbing someone in the face. Also.. what’s this “police release edited video ..”. Trying to falsely claim they tampered the video? Can you get any worse at your job? Just state facts, it’s not difficult
— ladyg_2498 (@2498Ladyg) April 21, 2021
What part of the tape of the actual confrontation was edited?
— StuN (@kaonohe) April 21, 2021
Disappointed at the way this is being presented as click bait by NPR. I hold NPR to a higher standard. You are better than this. Watch the footage. Girl was clearly about to stab another individual.
— BA (@Billiamisgreat) April 21, 2021
NPR’s behavior fits with an invariable pattern of mainstream media outlets apparently trying to frame everything to fit a preconceived narrative, namely that all police officers are vile racists and all minorities fatally shot by the police are the victims of racism.
But the media’s disingenuous framing isn’t always so obvious as it was in the case of NPR. Over at NBC, the bias was injected so subtly that most people didn’t even notice it.
Observe (*Graphic content):
NBC deceptively edited the 911 call and the video to take out the knife. They did this to Zimmerman too. https://t.co/nLQ8AUAKrc
— Peace Promoter Poso (@JackPosobiec) April 22, 2021
Now compare NBC’s report to CBS News’s report:
In stark contrast, CBS Evening News showed the important part of the 911 call. “These grown girls over here trying to fight us, trying to stab us,” the caller says.
They also slow down the video and zoom in on the knife in the attacker’s hand. pic.twitter.com/izvXaUH6Ki
— Nicholas Fondacaro (@NickFondacaro) April 22, 2021
This sort of deceptive reporting matters because it has real-world consequences, including protests — and sometimes riots — based on falsehoods.
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