St. Louis Post-Dispatch editor Gilbert Bailon criticized some conservative media outlets and national press for their coverage of the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Bailon singled out Fox News for focusing on looting and “chaos” while ignoring the “deeper story” in Ferguson, and also cited The Washington Post and the New York Post for running thinly sourced negative stories about Brown.
Bailon, editor of the largest local paper covering the aftermath of the August 9 police shooting that left Brown dead and sparked a national debate on police tactics, spoke to Media Matters at the American Society of News Editors conference in Chicago this week.
While the editor and former ASNE president praised much of the national press coverage, he cited Fox News for criticism.
“I think the national media has done a good job of capturing the story,” Bailon said. But he later said of Fox News: “I do think sometimes ... it looks like the whole community was in flames, and it was really a few block area. Significant, but it wasn't like St. Louis was on fire or out of control and there was mass chaos everywhere ... it wasn't like an all-consuming entire metropolitan area was hit by that, yet it commanded a huge presence of what was there.”
He added, “I think Fox took a different angle, their view was more of the view of the chaos, was really focusing on the looting and less of what was going on in the community pre-dating the looting. The looting was very dramatic...but there was the deeper story there. Some stayed on in town longer, I think there was a different viewpoint on them and less on the undercurrent. [Fox] didn't look at it as deeply and as long as others, CNN did make an investment, MSNBC was there a lot.”
He also cited a Washington Post report that Brown had marijuana in his system and another from the New York Post that the officer who shot Brown suffered a fractured eye socket as facts his paper has yet to report because they cannot be verified.
“There's been a couple of stories that I think the sourcing wasn't quite as good on,” he said. “I don't know whether these are wrong but we haven't been able to verify it. There's been talk that Michael Brown had marijuana in his system. Well that hasn't been officially reviewed, we don't know that yet. We haven't reported that. The New York Post picked up some information about [police officer Darren Wilson] having an orbital fracture of his face ... inflicted by Michael Brown. We have not found that to be true. In fact, it has been debunked by many."