Business Insider runs a linkbait post with a graphic of Trayvon Martin images it found on the neonazi website Stormfront.

It doesn’t run them to debunk them, mind you, but to back up its thesis that “The Media Is Getting the Trayvon Martin Story Wrong,” as it says in the title bar (the headline hedges it as “Why Lots Of People Think The Media Is Wrong About The Trayvon Martin Case.”

We first saw this image (right) of Trayvon Martin on Stormfront a racist message board.

But how would the story have been received by the public if this was the image of Trayvon Martin in your newspaper, rather than the earlier ones we’ve seen everywhere else?

That was a very bad idea, and it backfired quickly. At 11:40 a.m., an hour after publishing, Michael Brendan Dougherty updated his post:

Oh, hey—oops! Guess you shouldn’t have sourced material from neonazis on the Internets about an inflamed racial controversy.

A half hour or so after that correction, Business Insider removed one of the Stormfront-sourced pictures—of a black kid who doesn’t look like Martin flipping off the camera—but left up the Stormfront-sourced picture of a black kid with gold teeth who looks a bit more like Martin, but maybe not, actually.

In a follow-up post a half hour after that second correction, Nicholas Carson, in the process of writing that he knew a white kid in fifth grade who liked Snoop Dogg and dressed in baggy clothes, says the gold-teeth picture “is definitely a picture of him.”

Carson also writes that “Just So We’re Clear: This Picture Says NOTHING About Trayvon Martin.” But it’s unclear who “we” is there. Dougherty printed the images to ask “how would the story have been received by the public if this was the image of Trayvon Martin in your newspaper, rather than the earlier ones we’ve seen everywhere else?” Clearly the picture(s) say SOMETHING, no?

Some half an hour or so after Carson’s post (I should have screen-capped all these corrections, clarifications, and retractions), Dougherty corrects and retracts the second image from his original post again, writing “now there is also question as to whether the other image is of Trayvon. We have now removed both.”

As of 2:12 p.m., the pictures are still up on Carson’s post, which still says one of them “is definitely a picture of him.”

I’m not sure whether to publish this post right now or to wait for the next correction or retraction. This one’s for the Hamster Wheel Hall of Fame:

UPDATE: And now Good Morning America joins in the poor Trayvon Martin sourcing.


Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.