The New York Times was accused on Sunday of "glorifying" cancel culture and "celebrating teenage revenge narratives" after publishing a piece that many readers feel lacked news value and celebrated a high school student's vengeance on a classmate.
The controversial piece, headlined, "A Racial Slur, a Viral Video, and a Reckoning," detailed how a White high school student "withdrew from her chosen college after a three-second video caused an uproar online," adding that the classmate who shared it "publicly has no regrets."
Times reporter Dan Levin followed Jimmy Galligan, who publicly posted a video of Mimi Groves using a racial slur when she was a freshman in high school.
"She was a varsity cheer captain who dreamed of attending the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, whose cheer team was the reigning national champion. When she made the team in May, her parents celebrated with a cake and orange balloons, the university's official color," Levin wrote of Groves.
Years after Groves uttered the N-word on Snapchat, Galligan shared the video at the height of nationwide protests stemming from George Floyd’s death in police custody.
"Galligan, who had waited until Ms. Groves had chosen a college, had publicly posted the video that afternoon. Within hours, it had been shared to Snapchat, TikTok and Twitter, where furious calls mounted for the University of Tennessee to revoke its admission offer," Levin wrote.
"The consequences were swift. Over the next two days, Ms. Groves was removed from the university's cheer team. She then withdrew from the school under pressure from admissions officials, who told her they had received hundreds of emails and phone calls from outraged alumni, students and the public," Levin continued.
The story featured Groves apologizing and owning up to her mistake, noting that she's enrolled in community college instead of cheerleading at her dream college. It ended by spotlighting Galligan's lack of regret for his role in the situation.
"'If I never posted that video, nothing would have ever happened… I'm going to remind myself, you started something,' he said with satisfaction," the Times reported. "You taught someone a lesson."
The framing of the story was ridiculed on social media as readers felt the Times was glorifying cancel culture.
"It's interesting that the NY Times uses the word *reckoning* in their story on the revocation of a college admission, three years after the teenage girl used a racial slur in a video. *Reckoning* implies that the cancelation was deserved, rather than an outrageous overreaction," one critic observed.
"The tone of the NYT piece wasn't skeptical or unnerved; it was nearly celebratory. It was also filled with scattered accusations of racism to make the behavior of the student who sat on it and released it *three years later* seem more reasonable," another reader added.
Many others took to Twitter with thoughts on the Times' piece:
The New York Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment.