SALT LAKE CITY — The New York Times issued a formal response to the many readers who “reacted strongly” to the paper’s coverage of the death of LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson.
Many members of the Mormon faith took issue with the obituary, which starts out with some of the more controversial points of the LDS leader’s tenure: “Thomas S. Monson, who as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2008 enlarged the ranks of female missionaries, but rebuffed demands to ordain women as priests and refused to alter church opposition to same-sex marriage, died on Tuesday at his home in Salt Lake City.”
As The Atlantic writer McKay Coppins put it, some felt the Times’ obituary “defined his life’s work by the things he didn’t do,” rather than “his commitment to personal ministry.”
The Times’ response to readers, posted on the Reader Center section of the paper’s website Monday evening, said readers complained: “the obituary focused too narrowly on the politics and controversies of (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and overlooked Mr. Monson’s contributions to the community.”
In an effort to explain the process taken in writing last week’s obituary, New York Times obituaries editor William McDonald answered several questions compiled from the feedback the paper received.
“I think the obituary was a faithful accounting of the more prominent issues that Mr. Monson encountered and dealt with publicly during his tenure,” McDonald said. “Some of these matters — the role of women in the church, the church’s policy toward homosexuality and same-sex marriage, and more — were widely publicized and discussed, and it’s our obligation as journalists, whether in an obituary or elsewhere, to fully air these issues from both sides.”