Newspaper Editor Defends His Decision To Reveal The United Passenger’s "Troubled Past" – BuzzFeed News
9. Joel Christopher, the executive editor of the Courier-Journal, told BuzzFeed News Tuesday that it was “absolutely not” fed information by United.
Christopher said the information about Dao and his past came from a “number of different sources that had knowledge of his identity and who requested that we not name them as they were not authorized to speak about” the incident.
Christopher said he could not reveal the unnamed sources.
He also addressed accusations that it was a smear piece on behalf of United.
“I just want to be really explicit that we were absolutely not fed information by United,” he said. “We would never act as an agent for a corporation like United to protect its interests.”
He also said United was not influencing the paper’s coverage “by giving us information” that they’re not sharing publicly. “We’re not having any conversations with United that isn’t appearing in our reporting,” he said.
A United spokesperson told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday that it had not confirmed the passenger’s identity.
“We have not confirmed any details about our customer, nor would we,” the spokesperson said. “We will not be discussing any details about the customer.”
A spokesperson for Edelman — United’s PR agency — directed all questions to the airline.
Christopher said that, in hindsight, he was not surprised by the backlash to the piece but defended it, saying it was a case where “the national audience, without context, was jumping to an incorrect conclusion.”
“This is an individual, who because of his past case, is known to people in the area,” he said. “Referring to him without referring to [his past] would be highly unusual.”
Christopher said that within the local context, the story — one of several in the Courier-Journal’s coverage of the incident — made sense, but that a huge portion of the audience came from outside the local market.
“A national audience would not have the same background and context,” he said.