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That ‘Inadvertent’ Editing at NBC

Why should we believe a network that commits serial transgressions against decent journalism?

by
Rand Simberg

Bio

April 8, 2012 - 10:07 am

NBC News continues to claim that editing the 911 call to make it sound as though George Zimmerman was focused on Trayvon Martin’s race was an innocent mistake:

Sources inside the network have told Reuters that NBC News brass interviewed more than a dozen staffers during its investigation of the matter.

As part of the investigation, the producer who edited the call was questioned extensively about motivation, and it was determined that the person had cut the video clip down to meet a maximum time requirement for the length of the segment – a common pressure in morning television – and inadvertently edited the call in a way that proved misleading.

NBC News has apologized for the incident, saying in a statement to Reuters earlier this week that there was “an editing error in the production process,” but insisting the results of the internal investigation would not be announced publicly.

Capus said that the network “takes its responsibility seriously” and has undertaken rigorous efforts to formalize the editorial safeguards in place at the network.

Emphasis mine, and back to that last sentence in a minute.

It would be easy to forgive this trespass, particularly on the day that millions celebrate the resurrection of the man whose prayer implores us to do so to those who trespass against us, had it occurred in isolation. But as the piece points out, even ignoring the entire biased history over decades of not just NBC, but the mainstream media in general, in which these “mistakes” and misses by the “layers of fact checkers and editors” almost always somehow manage to advance rather than to undermine the selected (leftist) media narrative, NBC had another problem in this very case:

Externally, media critics including Howard Kurtz, host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources” and a columnist for The Daily Beast, have criticized the network for allowing Sharpton to play a dual role as both activist and commentator.

“Even commentators have to abide by certain rules,” Kurtz wrote last month. “And in this case, by playing both sides of the camera, Rev. Al has obliterated them.”

Internally, some NBC news staffers have complained that Sharpton’s unique role in the case has compounded the damage to NBC News’ reputation that the edited tape caused, and contributed to an impression among its critics that the network as a whole is biased against Zimmerman, according to sources.

That NBC even has a known and unreformed and unrepentant (as recently as a year ago, and a quarter of a century later, he still continues to refuse to acknowledge or apologize for his despicable and deceitful actions in the Tawana Brawley case) continuing race baiter like Al Sharpton as a programming host is worthy of ongoing condemnation in itself, even divorced from this particular conflict of interest, which the network executives continue to refuse to acknowledge:

MSNBC chief executive Phil Griffin has defended Sharpton’s dual role as well, saying that as long as the longtime civil rights activist is upfront about his advocacy activity, he would be allowed on a “case by case basis” to both participate in and comment for MSNBC on issues and stories that interest him. Griffin has credited Sharpton with turning the Martin case into a national news story.

That it (unjustifiably, as it turns out) turned into a national news story about race, rather than a national news story about an overzealous neighborhood watch captain, which may or may not have been properly investigated, and has inflamed tensions over the former always-inflammatory issue, with the aid of the president, is apparently fine with Mr. Griffin. A cynic might speculate that this is perhaps because, like contraception and the faux Republican “war on women,” it serves to distract the voting populace from the major barrier to the president’s reelection — the continuing weak economy, which, according to a report on Friday, and “unexpectedly” and “disappointingly,” generated a little over half the expected jobs last month.

So was it really “inadvertent”? NBC asks us to take its word for it, but given its record, it is hard to do. They refuse to provide the name of the perpetrator or his or her history so that we can judge for ourselves.

Was such a blatant and misleading editing a first offense? If so, firing seems a little harsh, but because we don’t know who it is, we don’t know.

Does the person have a history of doing stories that seem to advance a Democratic/”liberal” agenda, and a paucity of such stories otherwise? We don’t know.

Was no one else aware of the misleading edit? We’re told that the execs didn’t know, but little else, because of the lack of the transparency of the “investigation.”

Do we really even know that the person was fired? Absent an identification, no. There is no way to know. We just have to trust NBC, a network (particularly when considering all of the crimes against journalism committed on an almost daily basis by its low-rated, now explicitly leftist sister organization, MSNBC) that has shown itself to be unworthy of such trust.

What NBC News needs is not “rigorous efforts to formalize the editorial safeguards in place at the network.” What it needs is to hire people (and not just editors) who are not reflexively in the tank for a narrative that advances the “liberal” cause, but will be properly skeptical of a story that paints a man as a racist based on a distorted 911 tape, as many bloggers in the dextrasphere were. This is how the duplicity was uncovered. It needs to hire people as hosts who want to promote racial harmony rather than divisiveness. It needs to hire executives who understand the need to apologize — not just to its viewers for such egregious mistakes, but to the man whom it potentially libeled (something that, as far as I and the Washington Post know, has not yet occurred).

Here’s the problem for NBC. And ABC and CBS and CNN. It’s not the editorial process — it’s the culture. And it’s a problem that may well not be fixed until those institutions have been replaced in toto. Because given their hiring proclivities, there is no sign that staff turnover will ever solve the problem.

Rand Simberg is a recovering aerospace engineer and a consultant in space commercialization, space tourism and Internet security. He offers occasionally biting commentary about infinity and beyond at his weblog, Transterrestrial Musings.
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