Buffalo Editor Recalls Furor Over Reporting Victims’ Crime Records


Margaret Sullivan, editor of the Buffalo News and newly appointed public editor of the New York Times, wrote for Nieman Reports recalling the controversy over the 2010 shooting of eight men in Buffalo, when the newspaper ran a headline, “7 of 8 shooting victims had criminal past.” It reported that five of the victims were convicted felons, with charges including weapons possession, reckless endangerment, drug possession, and armed robbery.

Sullivan says that he story went to great lengths to say that no one intended to blame the victims. The first quote was from a criminal justice professor who, after noting that a felony prosecution or conviction increases the statistical likelihood of becoming a crime victim, said, “It doesn’t mean that the people deserved it or in any way had it coming.” Still, many members of the black community were enraged, and Suillvan describes how she reached out to local leaders to explain her journalistic decision. Since the crisis, “our newsroom has made a serious effort to forge a stronger connection between the paper and Buffalo’s black community,” Sullivan says.

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