NYT public editor: Lolo Jones story was ‘too harsh’

Lolo Jones fires back at her critics and gets emotional when discussing what she feels was harsh criticism from a recent New York Times story.

After Lolo Jones tearfully claimed on TODAY Wednesday that she was “ripped to shreds” in a recent New York Times piece, the Times’ public editor called the story “too harsh’’ in an article on Thursday.

Public editor Arthur S. Brisbane, who is the “readers’ representative” at the Times, wrote on Thursday that “in this particular case, I think the writer was particularly harsh, even unnecessarily so.’’ The piece on Aug. 3 by staff writer Jere Longman, “For Lolo Jones at the Olympics, Everything is Image,’’ argued that Jones is more sex appeal and media hype than substance.

In the story, Longman quotes the director of the International Centre for Olympic Studies comparing Jones to former tennis professional Anna Kournikova, who was known more for her good looks than anything she did on the court.

“This piece struck me as quite harsh and left me, along with others, wondering why the tone was so strong,’’ Brisbane wrote.

After finishing a disappointing fourth in the 100-meter hurdles on Tuesday, Jones addressed the Times story on TODAY Wednesday.

“I think it was crazy just because it was two days before I competed, and then the fact that it was from a U.S. media,’’ Jones told Savannah Guthrie before fighting back tears. “They should be supporting our U.S. Olympic athletes and instead they just ripped me to shreds. I just thought that that was crazy because I worked six days a week, every day, for four years for a 12-second race and the fact that they just tore me apart, which is heartbreaking.

“They didn’t even do their research, calling me the Anna Kournikova of track. I have the American record. I am the American record holder indoors, I have two world indoor titles. Just because I don’t boast about these things, I don’t think I should be ripped apart by media. I laid it out there, fought hard for my country and it’s just a shame that I have to deal with so much backlash when I’m already so brokenhearted as it is.”

Since the article appeared in the “In the Rings’’ section of the Times’ Olympic coverage, it was intended as an opinion piece and not a straight news story, according to Brisbane.

“One person’s harsh is another person’s tough minded,’’ the Times’ sports editor told Brisbane. “(Longman), while acknowledging Jones’s accomplishment and qualities of perseverance and candor, thinks this female athlete fell short.’’

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