September 20, 2023
A video showing two apparent teenagers intentionally driving into a retired police chief riding his bicycle in Las Vegas went viral over the weekend. The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s coverage of the incident was heavily criticized by readers who posted screenshots of the Review-Journal’s obituary for the officer that was published on Aug. 18 for its use of “bike crash” in the headline. Thirteen days later, a source approached the reporter with the now-viral video and the reporter connected the source to the police. On Sunday, Elon Musk reposted one of the criticisms saying, “An innocent man was murdered in cold blood while riding his bicycle. The killers joked about it on social media. Yet, where is the media outrage? Now you begin to understand the lie.”
The Review-Journal’s Executive Editor Glenn Cook responded to the criticism in a column and described the reporting. Cook stood behind the reporter and her reporting on the homicide and called the criticisms “a disinformation attack.” The Review-Journal originally published the obituary before it was considered an intentional homicide. Editors changed “bike crash” in the obituary headline to “hit-and-run” and listed all the reporting the newspaper had published about the crash.
The SPJ Code of Ethics says journalists should gather, update and correct information throughout the life of a news story. The Review-Journal continued reporting on the story as more information came out. It published the initial report on Aug. 14, published the obituary on Aug. 18, reported on the updates to the case on Aug. 31 and published a story on the vigil held for the officer on Sepy. 7. The Code also says to “acknowledge mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently.” Cook acknowledged the use of “bike crash” in his column and explained why it was changed.