Epic fail: NBC and the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin story

Epic fail: NBC and the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin story April 2, 2012

The mind boggles:

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.

Read more and watch a video interview here.

Now, in my experience, there are a few logical explanations:

  1. The audio quality may have been poor, so they cut parts that were hard to understand.
  2. They needed to trim out the middle material for time.
  3. An associate producer with an Ivy League education and no common sense decided that the only important part was the “black” part, so he or she elected to cut all that other extraneous stuff that doesn’t sound sexy.
  4. An associate producer who is clearly an idiot decided to skew the story for sensational effect and boffo headlines.
  5. The producer overseeing the segment abdicated his or her responsibility and didn’t adequately check the context.
  6. The producer overseeing the segment actually did due diligence and decided to skew the story for sensational effect.

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.

In other words: bullshit.

UPDATE:  NBC issues an apology for 911 tape.

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