March 27, 2012

CJR | Business Insider | Tampa Bay Times
Why Lots Of People Think The Media Is Getting the Trayvon Martin Story Wrong,” read a Business Insider headline yesterday. It then presented photos taken from a white-supremacist website — how could that go wrong? — one of which purported to show Trayvon Martin extending both middle fingers at a camera.

“Maybe Zimmerman had a reason to fear for his life,” wrote Michael Brendan Dougherty in the post, which fritters around various half-baked speculations about Martin and brings up the Duke lacrosse case, which, Dougherty writes, “was a textbook example of how a crime seemed to fit a pre-determined narrative. The nation was put through an enormous drama, and urged to do deep soul-searching … over nothing.”

Trayvon Martin is dead, which certainly isn’t nothing. And also, those photos: One was not of Martin, and as Dougherty wrote, “now there is also question as to whether the other image is of Trayvon.” Business Insider removed both of them. “Oh, hey—oops! Guess you shouldn’t have sourced material from neonazis on the Internets about an inflamed racial controversy,” Ryan Chittum writes.

Except, Chittum notes, there’s another, even more bizarre post on Business Insider, this time by Nicholas Carson, and it still features both photos. “People are wondering if either of the second two pictures are actually of Trayvon. It actually doesn’t matter or change the point of this post,” Carson writes, though the point of the post is that the pictures — which, again, Business Insider got from a neo-Nazi website —  shouldn’t change the way you look at Trayvon Martin.

Eric Deggans writes that, “When Martin’s death first blossomed into a nationwide story, supporters wondered how the news of his killing would have been treated if the teen was a less sympathetic figure.”

Now we may have an answer, as the same social media tools which spread word about his death are now turned to try and present a rougher image of his life.

And we are all left with an uncomfortable question: Even if Martin dabbled in drugs, carried himself like a gangsta and wore tattoos, did Zimmerman have the legal right to kill him that night?

Related: Spike Lee tweets incorrect address for George Zimmerman (The Washington Times/Twitchy)

Clarification: This post originally said that neither of these photos are of Trayvon Martin; in an update to his original blog post, Deggans writes that a spokesperson for the Daily Caller, which is running the photo of Martin with gold teeth, told him “they got the photo from his Twitter account and are sure it is Martin.”

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

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