How The New York Times handles and confirms breaking crime news. – The New York Times

“When big news breaks, we aim to get to the bottom of what occurred as quickly as we can, although we keep in mind that oftentimes initial reports from the scene can be off.”
Marc Lacey, managing editor
The Times often relies on the reports given by law enforcement officials in control of a crime scene during a breaking news event. These initial reports can be valuable to readers, but they also can be incomplete and even inaccurate. We let readers know what we can’t confirm, what we can and where and how we got the information. Then we work aggressively to gather a wider range of perspectives on what happened and to verify the information through public records and interviews with witnesses and victims. We also search for video recordings of the incident and verify those before publishing.
Initial reports from law enforcement officials reflect their version of the events and are based on preliminary investigations.
Additional information may contradict these early reports.
Law enforcement officials may be withholding information for various reasons.
We are cautious when reporting about potential motives, especially when officials are making early statements about the motivation behind an incident.
We are clear with readers about what questions are unanswered.
When new information contradicts earlier reports, we level with readers on what has changed and when.
Sometimes the reporting on these events involves both the crime and how the police respond to it. Law enforcement officials at times make it difficult for us to access information, interview witnesses or verify their findings.
In the case of George Floyd, the initial police report was titled, “Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction.” Video recorded by a bystander showed police officers pinning Mr. Floyd to the ground.
By being upfront with readers about what we know and don’t know, we provide as much detail as possible while acknowledging it isn’t the full picture.


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