Washington Post: NBC Edit a 'Screw Up'

According to the Washington Post, some guy over at NBC accidentally edited out the context of George Zimmerman's 9-1-1 call to make him sound like a giant racist. Accidents happen!

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 above became this -- 

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

Yes, someone at NBC just fell asleep at the controls, edited this --

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?

-- from the entire call and parsed it with this:

Zimmerman: He looks black.

Respectfully, that's not a "screw up." It's a hit job.

It's a good thing NBC realized that they made the "error" many days later after they "accidentally" edited Zimmerman out to look like a racist, broadcasted it twice,and  said nothing of it in the news reports or to the other media outlets who perpetuated it. Apparently, it was only after the entire country read the transcript, listened to the full call, and then had a Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moment after comparing it to NBC's accidental smear job did the network realize their error.

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.

"Hey, we're sorry that audio we edited of you made you sound like a giant racist. Regrets" was the layman's version of NBC's statement on the results of its investigation. We don't know how Zimmerman feels about their statement because he's too busy hiding out because he has a $1 million dollar bounty on his head, angry Floridians roaming the streets for him, and celebrities trying to Tweet out his address and endangering old people in the process -- all because Zimmerman reportedly "racially profiled" Trayvon Martin. Gee, I wonder where all those people got that idea?

NBC didn't correct it when the false narrative developed in real time; they only corrected it after questions turned critical, when it was the reputation of their brand on the line.

This isn't a "screw up." A "screw up" is spilling coffee on a report. A "screw up" is getting the guy's age wrong in a story. A "screw up" is dropping the ball right when the guy slides into base. A "screw up" is not editing audio to remove the original meaning of said audio and re-characterizing the subject of the audio in a false way. An edit like this doesn't happen accidentally, but what do I know, I work in broadcasting professionally and am with two audio engineers every week day.

This was a media hit on a subject NBC desperately wanted to appear as a racist. NBC owes Zimmerman and America an explanation of what happened. Their ridiculous deflection is insufficient. NBC's bad reporting helped to further (and in some cases wholly) incite a mob against a man and sell a lie to the American public. Erik Wemple is right here:

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.

They are hard. So is explaining the action which required them, and not passing it off as a "screw up."


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