posts about or somewhat related to ‘media ethics’

NBC’s Handling of the Edited George Zimmerman 911 Call


A few days ago NBC apologized for its error editing George Zimmerman’s 911 call.

Apparently, the call went like 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?

Zimmerman: He looks black.

But on NBC it was aired like this:

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

Naturally, public pressure has been building for NBC to fully explain the incident especially because of the racial issues that it raised.

FJP: The question we’re left with. Should NBC have to explain what exactly went down? They have yet to. While we’re waiting, see this comment by HuffPost reader ”Mr. Moto”:

I think that at the beginning of each news broadcast there should be a disclaimer like there is on Cops which says all people are innocent until proven guilty.

Except in the case of the news, it should read: The following program is incomplete and could later be deemed fictional. For entertainment purposes only. 

To be fair, NBC did issue a statement. How effective it was is another story. Erik Wemple comments:

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. 

FJP: Don’t lose all hope just yet. We did recently learn that apologies can be issued with grace and integrity.

(Video via Mediate)

Update: The producer was fired.

Do you think nonprofit journalism’s reliance on philanthropic donors and sponsors leads to a tendency to tone down potential criticism of funders or even of the entire spectrum of philanthropic support?

Rick Cohen, in his response to Andrew Beaujon’s commentary on the Texas Tribune’s nonprofit journalism.

via Nonprofit Quarterly:

The author, Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon, draws on a blog posting by journalist Stephen Robert Morse suggesting a couple of problems with the nonprofit business model of the Austin-based Texas Tribune. According to Beaujon, Morse argues that regular newspaper journalists now have to compete with “bigger name Tribune journalists whose work newspapers can run for free.” He also contends that a nonprofit newspaper like The Texas Tribune, dependent on sponsors and grants, is not likely to “do anything that might cheese off its sponsors.

FJP: It’s an ongoing debate. Thoughts?

Journalism vs. Talk Shows? The Real Problem with Network Cable News. →

Alexa Kravitz, a j-school student at U Maryland, wrote this interesting piece debating whether or not having non-journalists host political talk shows is a problem. Here are some highlights we found thought-provoking:

Journalists: They are trained to minimize the impact of their bias.

Even though many of the cable political talkfests focus on opinion rather than reporting, Deggans says there’s value in having journalists at the helm. “I think if you are a trained journalist, part of that training involves being taught a process that will allow you to minimize the impact of your bias even if you are an opinion person,” he says. “When I make my arguments, I try to be fair to the other side and to present the information as accurately as I can, without leaving out information about the opposing argument.”

Non-Journalists: They offer expertise on specific topics from years of experience.

Jerome Groopman, for one, is a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and an author who doubles as a staff writer for The New Yorker. Although not inherently a journalist, his medical knowledge gives value to his contributions.

And well, journalists aren’t necessarily the best (or most dynamic) talk-show hosts.

Plus, a country that covets freedom of the press also doesn’t define journalist in a neat little box. NPR’s media correspondent, David Folkenflik comments:

Journalism is a profession, an avocation, in which nobody gets to license you; the government doesn’t get to say you get to be a journalist and you don’t, and that’s a good thing. That’s part of our tradition of freedom of the press and the openness of the field to those who seek it out.

So what’s the real problem with having non-journalists hosting political talk-shows? The fact the viewers don’t always realize these people aren’t journalists.

Broadcast Marvin Kalb weighs in:

Argument on cable TV is now the bread and butter of the media. You have someone from the left arguing with someone from the right, and everyone’s happy. But they are not in a classic sense reporting the news; they are moderating or even instigating an exchange of opinion about the issue at hand.

FJP: Agreed. We can’t assume that people know who is a journalist (or educated and adherent to media ethics) and who isn’t. 

Baltimore Sun television critic David Zurawik says:

No, people don’t know that these are opinion shows during prime time, And one of the reasons they don’t is because cable executives are lying their butts off and putting out ads trying to present these people as journalists. There isn’t a clear line between the two. 

It’s one of the things that helps confuse the public about what journalists do but, even worse, makes parts of the public think of journalists as frauds, phonies, biased, players in this sort of media game of cable TV news.

So good journalism can lose credibility too. Thoughts? —Jihii