DC Trawler

NBC News President on dishonestly edited George Zimmerman 911 call: Oops (sorta)

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The first small glimmerings of a conscience? A half-hearted concession to the fact that they don’t control the flow of information anymore? I suppose it could be a little of both.

Via Matthew Sheffield at Newsbusters, here’s NBC News President Steve Capus being taken to task by the NYT’s David Carr(!) for editing Zimmerman’s 911 call to make him sound like a racist. Which Capus then tried to cover up by saying he’d fired a still-unnamed producer and that was the end of it, without ever issuing an on-air correction.

Carr writes:

I called Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, prepared to do battle over the lack of on-air remediation. Even though Mr. Capus had personally investigated the error, issued two statements on the matter, taken disciplinary action against six employees and led a series of meetings to remind people of best practices, nobody on the “Today” show had explained what happened, or apologized for it, to the audience.

That seemed wrong to me. A network’s primary contract is with the viewers who tune in to its shows every day, one that is more important than any obligation it feels to journalistic pundits or Beltway politicos.

“You’re probably right,” Mr. Capus said right away…

“The reality is that we didn’t try to hide from it,” he said. “We did an awful lot of work after it happened. We did an exhaustive investigation, I did interviews with a lot of publications to get the message out, but we probably should have done it on our own air.”

Mr. Capus said that they were so busy cleaning up the mess “inside our own halls,” that they neglected to loop in the audience. In that sense, the process was probably too “self-reflective,” he added.

Well, why let your audience in on it, Steve? Just because you deceptively edited 911 audio to make America’s latest Emmanuel Goldstein sound like a racist, that doesn’t mean you should apologize for your stunning ethical breach. Congratulations, you fired somebody. Who you won’t name. You took “disciplinary action.” Which you won’t specify. You assure us that it won’t happen again. Without explaining how it happened in the first place. We’ll just take your word for it, since you’re so trustworthy.

And hey, you feel really bad about not making an on-air correction. Which you could still do anytime you want. You’re the boss of NBC News. Why haven’t you corrected this and apologized where your viewers can actually see it?

Don’t worry. We all know why.

Carr ends by entreating us:

Give NBC credit for dealing with a big error that threatened to sow further mayhem on a very delicate story.

No. They haven’t earned any credit on this. And it doesn’t look like they’re even going to try.

Oh, by the way: Pointing out the very real consequences of race-baiting is just “scoring political points.” See, if you disagree with a liberal, then everything you say is just to spite liberals. It’s always about them.

Update: Well, how about this, from SFLTV.com.

You won’t hear it anywhere else but here – insiders have told us WTVJ reporter Jeff Burnside was fired last Friday for allegedly editing the Trayvon Martin 911 tape, the same tape NBC aired on ‘Today’ in early April. Allegedly, his firing wasn’t announced internally and so far there is no information whether NBC made a conclusion if the edit was misleading on purpose or if it was an oversight.

The 911 tape from the night of Trayvon Martin’s shooting, as initially aired by NBC, eliminated a question from the 911 dispatcher to George Zimmerman about whether Trayvon was black, white or Hispanic…

NBC launched an internal investigation immediately after the incident, and I’m told several people other than Burnside were questioned, at WTVJ and NBC news, including a WTVJ editor or a news photographer who may have worked on the report. Burnside was suspended while the investigation was ongoing but NBC decided he was the producer and fired him last Friday.

Is Burnside the so-far unnamed producer that NBC fired, or is this a separate incident?

As a reminder, Burnside was one of the reporters responsible for the same edit in print.

It’s kind of tough to claim it was “cut for time” on the NBC Miami website. Not to mention that the ellipsis indicates that there was something missing between the two sentences. One of the other NBC Miami reporters responsible, Christina Hernandez, claimed:

I had to screencap that from my previous post about it, because she’s deleted that tweet. She also deleted this one:

She claimed she didn’t know about the deceptive edit. If that’s the case, why the ellipsis? And why delete her tweets blaming NBC News? And why does her Twitter feed stop on April 10?

Again, these questions are rhetorical.