I wrote earlier that there is no way that NBC’s Zimmerman edit was an accident or error, as the network claims. I base my position on nearly 20 years of editing video and audio. NBC’s Zimmerman edit was deliberate, done in a network editing studio at the specifications or orders of a producer who in turn answers up a chain of command that ends with the executive producer of the show that aired it. That show was the Today show, the highest-rated morning news show on the networks, and one of NBC’s prime products. Today aired the edited clip of George Zimmerman’s 911 call last week, and the network also put a text version, with the same dishonest edit, on its web sites. Only after this blog and others called NBC out did they “apologize,” while refusing to name anyone involved.
NBC’s deliberate edit was an attempt to build a narrative that George Zimmerman killed Trayvon out of racial animosity, but that does not square up with facts. NBC’s editors and producers knew that when they deliberately cut an important section out of the audio recording of Zimmerman’s 911 call. Someone in the network must answer for this deception, publicly. But NBC is hiding behind weak apologies and phony claims that the edit was a “mistake.”
Today‘s latest statement indicates that a “seasoned producer” was involved. A “seasoned producer” knows what they are doing, or should, and does not make an embarrassing “mistake” like the Zimmerman edit. Whoever this “seasoned producer” is, nothing gets on the air on a show like Today without the show’s executive producer’s approval. The executive producer of the Today show is Jim Bell. His bio describes him as a “hands on producer.” The 44-year-old Bell also fits the description of a “seasoned producer.”
“Today” news coverage overseen by Bell includes the 2008 Presidential Election, Hurricane Katrina, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the earthquake in Haiti. He led “Today’s” six-hour live broadcast of the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Bell also oversaw the two of the most prominent and successful anchor shifts in morning television history when Meredith Vieira replaced Katie Couric and Vieira was succeeded by Ann Curry. He also launched the successful fourth hour of “Today,” pairing Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb as hosts.
Prior to joining “Today,” Bell was coordinating producer for NBC Olympics, leading the production hiring for the Olympics unit and supervising nearly 100 hours of afternoon and late night programming on NBC during the 2004 Athens Summer Games.
Bell’s reputation as a ground-breaking, hands-on producer is well documented. He was responsible for the “Ends of the Earth” series that aired the first-ever live simultaneous broadcast from the Arctic, the Antarctic and the Equator. He was the executive producer of Matt Lauer’s primetime special “Decision Points: A Conversation with George W. Bush,” the President’s first one-on-one television interview after leaving office. Early in his career, he developed NBC’s AFL in-game interviews, with game announcers interviewing coaches during live telecasts, a technique used throughout the industry today.
Bell’s show helped contribute to the racial tensions that have followed the Zimmerman/Martin shooting. George Zimmerman’s entire family is now living in hiding, and they have been subjected to thousands of death threats. NBC’s Jim Bell is responsible for the content that airs on the show that he executive produces.
NBC must come clean. Who else was involved in this deception, and what does the network intend to do to try to win back some measure of the public’s trust? Hollow apologies and false claims that “mistakes were made” would not be acceptable to NBC in any investigative journalism it produces, and it will not suffice in this case.
Update: Here’s Mr. Bell’s twitter feed. It looks like being a seasoned, hands on NBC executive producer has its perks.
hat tip DF