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Headline changed after readers respond to poorly worded tweet

Zimmerman tweet

Sometimes it takes fewer than 140 characters to make a big impression -- the wrong impression, in the case of a tweet sent from our @latimes Twitter handle Tuesday morning.

The tweet in question referenced a recently published story about George Zimmerman, the man at the center of the case of the death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. The text of the tweet closely followed the language of the story's original headline:


Readers were quick to respond on Twitter, objecting to the tone of the tweet and headline, which they interpreted as supportive of Zimmerman's fundraising efforts. 

The reaction on Twitter prompted discussion in The Times' newsroom, and editors agreed that the headline read too much like an endorsement. They decided to rewrite the headline, which now reads "Trayvon Martin case: George Zimmerman website solicits donations."

And Assistant Managing Editor Henry Fuhrmann sent a note to editors who contribute to the @latimes Twitter account, saying, "Just a reminder, tweets have to stand on their own, without the context, nuance and background afforded by the item we are linking to. In other words, don’t assume that readers will follow the link. And remember that irony or sarcasm may not always translate."

Unfortunately, we can't unring the bell on Twitter, but we do appreciate the efforts of those followers who took the time to point out our unfortunate choice of words. 

-- Martin Beck and Lindsay Barnett, social media team

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Comments (2)

Even before this tweet, the LAT coverage of the Trayvon Martin shooting death has been slanted in favor of George Zimmerman. The main problem is that the LAT appears to not be doing original reporting with Sanford police and instead regurgitating the Orlando Sentinel's reporting with police there. This is dangerous and sloppy journalism. I've read all the Trayvon Martin coverage from the Orlando Sentinel and they have reported what Sanford police say as if it is the truth. Sanford police gave them a scoop, for instance, when they told a reporter there that Zimmerman "had lost sight" of Trayvon Martin and was trying to get into his van when Martin attacked him. The Orlando area police and sheriff's department will give false statements to Orlando Sentinel reporters when they are trying to defend their position--in this case explaining why Zimmerman was not arrested. The Orlando Sentinel gobbles it up. The Sentinel's main reporter in Sanford has had the beat for at least 15 years working with the same authorities and this reporter is no longer objective in their reporting. I've seen the Orlando Sentinel run front page stories from police sources explaining why they made a mistake (for example, accidentally shooting and killing a hostage rather than the perpetrator)-- explanations that later turned out to be downright false statements. Too late, it had already made Page One. Do not take what Sanford police say in this case as gospel. The LAT times needs to get to Sanford and do some shoe-leather reporting and not rely on their sister paper for key details.

The LAT once had on its staff Steve Berry and Jeff Brazil who won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting while on the staff at the Orlando Sentinel. They reported about sheriff's officials' unlawful seizure of millions of dollars from minority motorists. Berry and Brazil could talk to the LAT about the problem of racial profiling in the Orlando area, Sanford being among the worst.

At this point, no one knows the facts. The newspapers and TV have tweaked the headlines so much.

This is the backup site for The Los Angeles Times. We'll post news and information if becomes inoperable or inaccessible.

this is a test breaking news post |  April 16, 2013, 1:45 pm »


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Yes. The city desk number is (213) 237-7847.