I was also struck this week by Shooting Accounts Differ as Holder Schedules Visit to Ferguson in the New York Times. The article raises a number of difficult issues.

An excerpt:

But on the crucial moments that followed, the accounts differ sharply, officials say. Some witnesses say that Mr. Brown, 18, moved toward Officer Wilson, possibly in a threatening manner, when the officer shot him dead. But others say that Mr. Brown was not moving and may even have had his hands up when he was killed.

The accounts of what witnesses have told local and federal law enforcement authorities come from some of those witnesses themselves, law enforcement authorities and others in Ferguson. Many spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing a continuing investigation.

Later in the semester, we will talk more about the use of anonymous sources — how does it affect the credibility of a news article? under what circumstances, if any, should anonymity be granted?

Also, we know that many eyewitnesses make errors in their testimony. It’s possible that the eyewitnesses used for this NYT piece are giving the account of events as they genuinely remember them — that they are all “telling the truth” of what they remember.

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