New York Times shoots and misses on movie theater murder story

featureimage A retired police officer shot a man in a movie theater for texting during the previews. It won't surprise you that this occurred in Florida, that the man legally carried a concealed weapon or that the film was Mark Wahlberg's war-gasm flick Lone Survivor. What will surprise you is that the New York Times thought this story was more about texting at the movies than the gun fetishists who love freedom and concealed weapons. Readers noticed.

The most unbelivable line in this article - or any article I've read recently: "The killing underscored the increased debate about when to use smartphones in public."

Thus reads the most recommended comment by New York Times' readers on the article Man Killed During Argument Over Texting at Movie Theater.

The problem: if you read the article you won't find that sentence. You won't even find the paragraph it started. The Times simply excised the offending passage without as much as an edit notice.

I tweeted at 1:52 AM:

I thought I was going nuts when I revisited the article this afternoon to write this post and couldn't find the word "underscored" on the page. I had to track down a cached version of article on Archive.org to make sense of my tweet.

Clearly, the worst part of this is that the author, Frances Robles, dedicated three paragraphs to that all-consuming debate about texting at the movies. The other nine rightly explained what happened, but nowhere does the author mention our out of control gun culture, the rise of concealed weapons in public spaces, Stand Your Ground laws, Trayvon Martin or movie theater shootings.

No, we get three two (after edit) graphs with important nuggets like:

In October, the singer Madonna was spotted texting during the Lincoln Center premiere of “12 Years a Slave.” That led Tim League, chief executive of Alamo Drafthouse, a Texas-based chain of boutique cinemas, to post on Twitter that she was banned from watching movies at his theaters.

That's strike one for The Times. Strike two: as the criticism rolled in on social media and in the comments, The Times simply struck the most offensive paragraph. They didn't actually add any comments about gun issues, just removed one paragraph to appease angry commenters. Thank you New York Times. Consider me appeased.

Here are the last three paragraphs as they originally appeared:

The killing underscored the increased debate about when to use smartphones in public. In October, the singer Madonna was spotted texting during the Lincoln Center premiere of “12 Years a Slave.” That led Tim League, chief executive of Alamo Drafthouse, a Texas-based chain of boutique cinemas, to post on Twitter that she was banned from watching movies at his theaters.

Cinema executives acknowledged during a trade conference last year that they debated whether to accommodate younger viewers by allowing text messages during some movies. It was widely reported that the AMC chain had agreed to set aside the last rows for patrons to text without bothering others, but the company quickly denied considering such a move.

“Despite the tragic altercation in a Florida movie theater, which as reported is an isolated incident, movie theaters are a safe and enjoyable entertainment destination for millions of people,” said Patrick Corcoran, a spokesman for the National Association of Theater Owners. “We encourage our patrons to remember that they are sharing a common wish to be entertained and to treat their fellow moviegoers with courtesy and respect.”