NYT’s publication of leaked Manchester material reveals transatlantic differences – Emily Bell Sunday 28 May 2017 10.14 EDT


The New York Times issued a robust defence of its use of leaked material relating to the Manchester bombing. Photograph: Reuters

When it comes to making decisions about national security coverage, US journalism follows a different set of priorities

The New York Times last week attracted controversy and criticism for its use of leaked material relating to the suicide bombing attack on the Manchester Arena. CJ Chivers, the news organisation’s highly experienced Pulitzer-winning reporter who was himself once a member of the military, obtained leaked information including photos of the detonator, the backpack and the types of ballistics used in the attack as well as intelligence on the positioning of the bomber and the victims.

The anger of the police and UK government that they had lost control of intelligence material was accompanied by members of the public and other news organisations condemning the insensitive nature of the report.

The blatant disregard for the wishes of UK intelligence could be interpreted as a deliberate challenge from the US, or as a mark of disorganisation and lack of leadership in the current and notoriously rackety regime. It could equally be a reflection of the fact that when it comes to making decisions about national security coverage, US journalism follows a different set of priorities.

The reporting of violent crimes in the US is materially different from the culture of reporting in the UK. There is no contempt of court, and strong constitutional protection of the press under the first amendment. Details of violent incidents often name victims and suspects within minutes of the police arriving on the scene.

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