NPR Warns Readers: Reporting 'May Later Turn Out to Be Wrong'

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National Public Radio added a preemptive disclaimer to a Tuesday story about a shooting in Columbus, Ohio, warning readers that some of its facts “may later turn out to be wrong.”

The disclaimer was appended to a story about Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old girl shot by police when they allegedly found her wielding a knife during a conflict with two other girls. “This is a developing story,” the warning said. “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 story, originally authored by NPR’s Vanessa Romo and published around 10 p.m. Tuesday, went through a slew of changes after its initial publication on Tuesday, according to versions archived online, including the addition of a second author, Jaclyn Diaz, several hours after it was first published. The revised story included a line noting that police couldn’t say whether Bryant had been the one to call for help, though each version led with the family’s claim that Bryant had been the one to make the call. The revision also notes, in the eighth paragraph, that Interim Police chief Michael Wood disclosed body camera footage from the incident, which Woods said showed Bryant “holding a knife as she pushes two girls.”

I’m deleting this tweet, which was based on the statements from Bryant’s aunt. It was premature. Holding off until we know more — which is what I should have done last night. Apologies.

— Radley Balko (@radleybalko) April 21, 2021

More than one newsroom has encountered trouble with the story, with some initial reports spelling Bryant’s name incorrectly, and others giving her age as 15. The problems prompted at least one author, The Washington Post’s Radley Balko, to issue a public retraction, writing on Twitter that he had been “premature” to claim police “shot the kid who called for help.” He said he initially based that claim on statements made by Bryant’s aunt.

Bryant’s mother, Paula Bryant, told WBNS that her daughter was 16, and added, “I’m very upset. I’m hurt. I want answers.”

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