KausFiles

Nameless Scapegoat Watch

Nameless Scapegoat Watch:

1) WaPo‘s Erik Wemple wonders why NBC didn’t quickly come clean about its so-bad-it-seems-intentional mis-edit of the Zimmerman 911 call. Why not immediately “go into detail on exactly what had happened and what disciplinary measures would be taken”? I suspect the answer has something to do with the possibility of a libel suit from Zimmerman. As JustOneMinute‘s Tom Maguire reminded me, when you publish something so bad you face a giant adverse defamation verdict–well that’s exactly when you try not to fire the reporter or editor responsible. If you fire them, they’re likely to cut a separate deal with the plaintiff and testify in court about how sloppy your editorial practices were, how you had it in for plaintiff all along, etc. You keep the reporter close, however incompetent they’ve proven to be. You can fire them later. Like other tort laws, libel laws are in practice the enemy of transparency. …

2) How long will the now-fired Nameless Scapegoat editor remain nameless? Not long, I’d guess. … Also, did NBC offer a can-we-still-be-friends monetary… cushion along with the dismissal? …

3) In this case, I suspect the N.S. might have some valuable information to offer a plaintiff’s lawyer. Like how maybe there was a surge of enthusiasm at, yes, the highest levels of NBC News for turning this story into a clear cut emotional morality play (fueled by trendy social media!) and riding it to higher ratings for days, if not weeks. If you go to the March 20 Nightly News broadcast (available here) you can see NBC’s Ron Allen letting viewers imagine the racial epithet Zimmerman used for the man he was following.  Oh, wait. …

The N.S. was reportedly a “seasoned” producer. Seasoned producers (and reporters) know what the bosses want. …

Backfill: Treacher notes that NBC didn’t even announce the firing itself. And, using only the space-age Twitter device, he makes some progress narrowing down the location of the N.S. to the “network’s Miami bureau”–as opposed to the bureau of NBC’s local affiliate. How many producers work out of the network office? Couldn’t be many. …

Update: Drip, drip! NBC News President Steve Capus still won’t admit that a producer was fired. (Why annoy them even further–and maybe give them reason to file an independent lawsuit arguing that they were defamed?) Capus also claims the egregious edit was made as a cut to meet a time limitation–a story that’s already being called into question because the edit apparently also appeared on an NBC Web site–with some names attached–days before it aired on the Today show. … Capus seemingly thinks this is a relatively small story that will blow over, so the risk of losing money in litigation (if NBC comes clean) outweighs the loss to NBC’s reputation (if it doesn’t). I’m not so sure. … He already seems pretty far down the road of firing himself. …