The New York Times published a statement on the controversy surrounding President Thomas S. Monson’s obituary Monday, Jan. 8, in response to a petition that called for a rewrite of the controversial document.
William McDonald, the obituaries editor at The New York Times, recognized the complaints of the obituary’s critics.
“I … acknowledge that many of those who found the obituary wanting feel we did not provide a more rounded view of Mr. Monson — perhaps his more human side,” McDonald said in the statement. “I’ll concede that what we portrayed was the public man, not the private one, or the one known to his most ardent admirers.”
McDonald said, in the statement, he included the controversies because he wanted to acknowledge the issues that faced The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while President Monson presided over it.
“I think the obituary was a faithful accounting of the more prominent issues that Mr. Monson encountered and dealt with publicly during his tenure,” he said in the statement.
McDonald said in the statement he wanted to remain balanced in his coverage of the Prophet’s life by including issues brought up by those who raised objections to some of the Church’s policies and practices.
“It’s our obligation as journalists, whether in an obituary or elsewhere, to fully air these issues from both sides,” McDonald said in the address. “I think we did that, accurately portraying Mr. Monson’s position as leader of the church and those of the faith and others who questioned church policies.”
Nathan Cunningham, the author of the change.org petition, called for the obituary to be rewritten.
Cunningham said in the petition, “Instead of highlighting the positive aspects of his (President Monson’s) life or a neutral statement about the facts of his life, they decided to attack and disparage his character and used his obituary as a political statement against him and the Church as a whole and tweeted a click-bait headline to attack even further.”
The petition was published Sunday and garnered over 30,000 signatures overnight. By Monday afternoon, the petition had reached over 100,000 signatures prompting The New York Times to publish its statement. There are currently over 160,000 signatures.
“In 20/20 hindsight, we might have paid more attention to the high regard with which he (President Monson) was held within the church,” The New York Times Obits Editor stated. “I think by his very position in the church, all that was implied. But perhaps we should have stated it more plainly.”