NBC has completed its investigation into the mishandling of the police dispatcher’s conversation with George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case. And the process ends with a finding of error, plus an apology. Here is the statement just issued by the network:
During our investigation it became evident that there was an error made in the production process that we deeply regret. We will be taking the necessary steps to prevent this from happening in the future and apologize to our viewers.
That apology addresses the “Today” show’s failure to abridge accurately the conversation between Zimmerman and the dispatcher in this high-profile case. This is how the program portrayed a segment of that conversation:
Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.
And here is how it actually went down:
Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.
Dispatcher: OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?
Zimmerman: He looks black.
No matter how you feel about Zimmerman, that bit of tape editing was unfair to the truth and to Zimmerman’s reputation, such as it is. Reaction on Twitter and elsewhere to my previous post on this matter, was brutal toward NBC, with many comments suggesting the worst about the network’s motivations, reliability and so on.
Does the statement adequately address those concerns? On the good front, it acknowledges the mistake and apologizes to viewers for the bad editing. It’s a forthright correction and spares us any excuses about the faulty portrayal. On the bad front, the statement is skimpy on the details on just how the mistake unfolded. Nor does it articulate an apology directly to George Zimmerman, the “viewer” who is most aggrieved by the screw-up. In light of all that’s happened, Zimmerman may be a tough person for a news network to apologize to, but that’s just the point: Apologies are hard.
I agree: it is skimpy on the details. Worse than that, it’s lame. At no point does the statement say: what we reported was false and misleading, and we were wrong.
And yes: the network should, indeed, apologize directly to Zimmerman for grossly misrepresenting his character and the events of that night.
Somehow, though, I don’t think that will happen. I imagine NBC just wants the incident to go away.