Blog: KTVU-TV's on-air blunder costing people jobs?

5:44 PM, Jul 14, 2013   |    comments
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By now you have been deluged with the news that KTVU-TV in Oakland, California made a huge mistake at noon Friday by reporting on-air the alleged four names of the pilots on crashed Asiana Flight 214, names that were fake and racially offensive.

Mistakes happen but the failure of anyone in a string of writers, producers, etc. to catch KTVU's major error is inexcuseable. I mean, all you have to do is read them out loud to hear that something is terribly wrong.

KTVU admitted that no one read them out loud before they were read on the air.

Related story: CNN says Asiana considering legal action against KTVU, NTSB

No media outlet is perfect and small mistakes do happen. But this was a major story and I am embarrassed for the staff at KTVU and feel their pain. KTVU was punked somehow but the apologies and explanations are confusing as well.

Oddly, seven-year veteran KTVU producer Brad Belstock closed his @producerBB Twitter account soon after his last Friday tweet just moments after the names were read aloud on the air by Tori Campbell. I was told by KTVU that he was producer of the noon newscast that day but he is usually the 5 p.m. producer and now KTVU won't return my calls to verify.

One of his last tweets? "oh s**t"

OK, I don't think my very first reaction if I was a producer and heard what was read would be to tweet but.....KTVU was forced to make an immediate apology moments after the on-air mistake.

But a word of warning to anyone who tweets @KTVU in the future or replies to one of their tweets. You better read the disclaimer on their Twitter profile: Complete Bay Area News Coverage. If you send us a tweet, you consent to letting KTVU use and showcase it in any media, including on TV.

Hmmm, they are warning you that what you tweet is fair game to use....hmmm...

And know that KTVU isn't alone in recent on-air mistakes. A meteorologist on Los Angeles TV station KTLA had an inaccurate temperature of 700 degrees on a Wednesday recently. (See the photo I attached)

But I digress.

At first it was not clear where the names originated and it turned out the National Transportation Safety Board also had a role.

In seeking to verify the names, a still unidentified KTVU reporter called the government safety agency's public affairs office for confirmation, though did not read the names out loud, KTVU said in a statement on its website.

The station didn't clarify how the names were conveyed to the NTSB representative, who turned out to be a summer intern. The KTVU reporter also failed to ask for the identify of the NTSB intern -- who confirmed the spellings of the names.

"We heard this person verify the information without questioning who they were and then rushed the names on our noon newscast," KTVU's website reads.

"Rushed?"

The safety board admitted a summer intern told KTVU the spelling of the names was correct. The broadcaster said they never checked the position of the employee in the organization and rushed to get the names into their noon broadcast.

There you go. They "rushed" to be first to report and sacrificed "accurate."

I love being first to report a story but accurate -- double- and triple-checking with three "confirms" and at least one "second set of eyes" on the copy -- is always more important.

In his evening newscast Friday, anchor Frank Somerville apologized further.

"First, we never read the names out loud, phonetically sounding them out," he said. "Then, during our phone call to the NTSB where the person confirmed the spellings of the names, we never asked that person to give us their position with the agency."

In a statement, the NTSB admitted a summer intern had "erroneously' confirmed the names of the flight crew and was acting outside the scope of his authority..." the NTSB said in a statement.

"...in response to an inquiry from a media outlet, a summer intern acted outside the scope of his authority when he erroneously confirmed the names of the flight crew on the aircraft," it added.

Now, we should let the furor die down and let the suspensions or firings or reprimands fall where they may at KTVU.

WKYC-TV

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