Activist contributes to NYT story on former New Orleans cops sentencing

The Times-Picayune

For the second time in six months, The New York Times is answering questions about a freelancer who seems to be more of an activist. The Times-Picayune reports that Jordan Flaherty, who contributed to Campbell Robertson's April 4 New York Times article about the sentencing of five former New Orleans police officers, led a demonstration last summer against the defendants.

Reached by email and telephone, Flaherty disagreed with being called a leader of the protest, but he did speak there, exhorting the crowd to chant “guilty!” 25 times after he described being in the courtroom as the former officers were convicted.

Robertson, who was unable to get into the courtroom in time, used Flaherty’s “notes of what the judge said” during the sentencing, Times Deputy National Editor Rick Lyman told the Picayune.”We were unaware that Mr. Flaherty might have been involved in public protests involving the killings and, if we had known, we would not have used him," Lyman wrote.

This wasn’t Flaherty’s first time as a paid contributor to the Times; he contributed to one or two stories about the BP oil spill. “I’m also anti-oil spill,” he said. (He’s also written for The Washington Post and The Village Voice; he said he's been practicing journalism for more than 15 years.)

In an email, Flaherty told me that he hasn’t participated in protests against BP, “but in my writing elsewhere -- written after the NYTimes pieces -- I've certainly been critical of BP. In all cases, I stand by my reporting as accurate and thorough and fair.”

Flaherty also questioned the Picayune's objectivity in reporting his role at last summer's demonstration, noting that he has been a vocal critic of the paper's reporting on criminal justice issues.

The ex-cops were being sentenced for their roles in a post-Katrina shooting that left two dead. Flaherty says he sat in the courtroom “for several weeks” during the trial.

In October, Times freelancer Natasha Lennard was arrested while covering the Occupy Wall Street protests; in a story posted on BigGovernment.com, Lee Stranahan argued that Lennard's comments about the protests, made at a public forum, showed that she was part of the movement.

The Times said it had reviewed her work and found nothing suspect, but there were no plans to use her again. Lennard later said she has too many problems with what doesn't make into mainstream reporting "to be part of such a machine."

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.

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