Trayvon and the MSM: “Who will guard the guardians?” UPDATED

It’s an ironic question, given George Zimmerman’s own ideas about guardianship, but it’s one that needs to be asked of the mainstream press.

A long time ago, in the midst of of a month-long discussion on media, I noted a piece by a journalist who bristled at the existence of alternative media. To his way of thinking, the internets lacked the scruples, ethics, and sensibilities of “the mediating intelligences” within traditional, mainstream media. I had suggested, back then, that the whole point of alternative media — particularly the pesky blogs — might be to answer the famous question, quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”,( or, “Who will guard the guardians?”) particularly as mainstream journalists seemed inclined to take divergent turns through the narrow alleys of “truthiness” and “fake-but-accurate”.

I don’t suppose Freedman would take kindly to anyone suggesting that, in a way, those pesky bloggers and talk radio people are – in some, clearly not all cases – the guardians of the guards, the gatekeepers narrowing their eyes at the gatekeepers and saying, “oh yeah? ‘Zat so? What’s your source? How come you left out this part of the transcript? Why should we believe all those “anonymous” comments and tips? Who are those “some” that Katie Couric keeps telling us “say” all those things?”

Well, Mr-Mediating-Intelligences, it does in fact seem that the guardians need some guarding, after all. From the Washington Post’s own blog:

NBC told this blog today that it would investigate its handling of a piece on the “Today” show that ham-handedly abridged the conversation between George Zimmerman and a dispatcher in the moments before the death of Trayvon Martin. A statement from NBC:

“We have launched an internal investigation into the editorial process surrounding this particular story.”

Great news right there. As exposed by Fox News and media watchdog site NewsBusters, the “Today” segment took this approach to a key part of the dispatcher call:

Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.

Here’s how the actual conversation 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.

The difference between what “Today” put on its air and the actual tape? Complete: In the “Today” version, Zimmerman volunteered that this person “looks black,” a sequence of events that would more readily paint Zimmerman as a racial profiler. In reality’s version, Zimmerman simply answered a question about the race of the person whom he was reporting to the police. Nothing prejudicial at all in responding to such an inquiry.

It’s worth mentioning that without the existence of the internet and the many blogs and sites interested in (or in some cased dedicated-to) media scrutiny, we might never have even realized that someone within a mainstream media outlet had played such a devious and potentially destructive hand, with what appears to be a malicious intent.

A friend emailed:

[NBC’s edit is] not only an injustice to Zimmerman to splice that video that way, it was cruel in my mind to do that to African Americans and the parents of that boy – throwing fuel onto a fire, needlessly, through a fabricated distortion of the truth.

Now, if you haven’t seen it, watch the full interview between Piers Morgan and Toure of MSNBC and their heated debate. Ask yourself which audio version of that 911 recording Toure was basing his argument on. Most sources only shared the last 5 minutes of the interview, but I recommend listening to the whole thing to get it all in context.

Yes, do watch the whole thing. It’s interesting to hear Toure note that folks “in the hallways of NBC” were laughing at Piers Morgan for “not challenging,” the Zimmerman narrative.

Perhaps NBC felt the best way to do challenge the Zimmerman narrative was to change it materially, at its factual source.

The Trayvon Martin case is a tragedy, and it has revealed that a nation capable of electing an African-American president has become less-convincingly “post-racial” than many had supposed. Shame on anyone — mainstream media, politician or alt-media crank — who sees the racial tension that has grown from the story (what with the NY Times’ sudden-and-insistent classification of Zimmerman as “a white-Hispanic”, Geraldo’s remarks about hoodies and now NBC’s edit) and makes the dubious, nay evil decision to introduce it to a flammable gas, either through rhetorical hyperbole or outright deceit.

UPDATE: Deacon Greg Kandra, who spent a couple decades writing at CBS News — and thus has an insider’s knowledge of how NBC’s bad edit might have gone down — enumerates the possibilities and then adds:

Whatever happened, there was widespread system failure here — and a deplorable absence of truth. And people wonder why nobody trusts the media. Seriously? It’s crap like this.

Heads should roll.

The mainstream media is increasingly diminishing itself into irrelevance and giving more and more of us fewer and fewer reasons to pay attention. As one who toiled long and hard in the vineyards of broadcast news, I find this stuff infuriating, and more than a little depressing. The nation needs a strong, vigilant, independent and courageous press.

What we’re getting, instead, is lazy reporting, cynical manipulation and lies.

The good deacon ends his piece on a decisive note!

UPDATE II: Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit is wondering if a walkback/stampede may be in progress:

Much of what they have done — for example, using the middle-school picture of Trayvon Martin almost exclusively in their coverage — isn’t actionable. The deceptive editing of the 911 call, however, might rise to the level of “actual malice,” thus supporting a libel action even though Zimmerman is a public figure.

I’m no attorney, but if I were a juryman, I’d be inclined to think malice and forethought were part-and-parcel of that NBC edit. Not so much, perhaps the bit at ABC, but the other, IMHO, yeah…

Meanwhile, Mark Shea, a lover of ironies and all things absurd writes NBC Lies: Investigates Itself for Lying:

“. . .this also provides further proof for my brand new theory about using things like “evidence” and “witnesses” in some sort of legal setting so that matters like this can be sorted out dispassionately and not only he basis of millions of ignorant people who were not there making snap judgments based on edited crap fed them by a media looking to gin up controversy in order to sell beer and shampoo.”

What a concept!

Rick Moran is not expecting much to come of it

UPDATE III:
Who is demanding censorship?

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About Elizabeth Scalia