The tragic story of slain teenager Trayvon Martin has been bringing out the worst in some people lately. You can count conservative website The Daily Caller among them. After launching a yellow attack on President Obama over his words of comfort to the boy’s parents, the site made the ghoulish decision to post what it says are the last tweets from Trayvon’s closed Twitter account. Mediaite has learned that those tweets were fed to The DC by an undisclosed source.
The site’s Executive Editor, David Martosko, writes:(emphasis mine)
The Daily Caller has obtained a compilation of the late Trayvon Martin’s tweets.
The social media scan, executed on PeopleBrowsr and supplied to TheDC by the individual who performed the search, contains tweets from the last month of Martin’s life, dating to the beginning of 2012.
That’s an odd bit of non-attribution. Even anonymous sources are typically cited with some sort of description that gives the reader an idea of their relationship to the material, however vague. I contacted Martosko to see if he could supply some more information about the executor of that search:(via email)
Tommy Christopher: Your article doesn’t say who executed the search. Can you confirm or deny whether it was George Zimmerman’s attorney, or someone from his office? A law enforcement source? Do you know who the source was, or was it sent to you anonymously?
David Martosko: The source is a person known to us — not anonymous — and someone with no connection either to Zimmerman or to law enforcement.
Tommy Christopher: So, who was it?
David Martosko: We’re not disclosing the identity of the source.
Tommy Christopher: Do you have a tighter attribution than that? A source at (blank)? Did you solicit the search, or did this source bring it to you? It’s just a weird attribution “the individual who executed the search.” Why is that necessary? Was it someone from Peoplebrowsr?
David Martosko: For the record, the source came to us.
Tommy Christopher: Well, I’m not trying to annoy you, it’s a legitimate question. Your attribution is a significant deviation from accepted sourcing standards. You don’t want to tighten the attribution up a wee bit?
The site posted the tweets without any analysis or commentary, and no indication of what the news value of this revelation was supposed to be. There’s a principle of journalistic ethics that says that ethical journalists “recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.”
Since Trayvon’s account was closed, it’s obvious his family intended for them to be private, yet the DC chose to publish them anyway. Once they were published, The DC added an update to say that the account had been reopened, then another to say that it had been closed again. Since the only commentary in the piece was about how Trayvon’s Twitter avatar “depicts him smiling, gold-toothed, into a camera in front of an electronic dartboard,” I asked Martosko to explain the overriding public need to resurrect Trayvon Martin’s Twitter feed:(via email)
Tommy Christopher: I did have one more question, and I suspect if I don’t ask, you’ll complain later that I didn’t, but feel free to reply the same way. Since the account was deleted, there seems to have been an effort to keep thses tweets private. What was the news value of these tweets that overrode that wish for privacy?
David Martosko: We don’t know who deleted the account or why. But a few hours after we published the collection of tweets, the account suddenly reappeared online again. So I would say that whoever wanted it to disappear suddenly changed their minds. It disappeared again last night, but was fully accessible for several hours yesterday.
Regardless, our readers — and most Americans — are keenly interested in the personalities and character of the two men involved in the altercation in Sanford, Fla. This information, which was in the public domain for several weeks between Martin’s death and when the Twitter account was deleted, fills in some of the details.
The police incident report from Feb. 26, which we published this afternoon, fills in more. We’ll continue to report on the story as new information emerges.
Whether you’re interested in picking through Trayvon’s tweets or not, someone went out of their way to find those tweets, and make them public.
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