The Mary Mapes Award for Journalistic Integrity goes to . . .

. . . an unnamed former producer for NBC News:

NBC Fires Producer of Misleading Zimmerman Tape

By Brian Stelter

NBC News has fired a producer who was involved in the production of a misleading segment about the Trayvon Martin case in Florida.

The person was fired on Thursday, according to two people with direct knowledge of the disciplinary action who declined to be identified discussing internal company matters. They also declined to name the fired producer. A spokeswoman for NBC News declined to comment.

The unidentified producer — speculation centered on Today show executive producer Jim Bell — was held responsible for an “error in the production process” which was an editing change which took George Zimmerman’s recorded conversation with police dispatchers completely out of context, and made it appear that Mr Zimmerman targeted Trayvon Martin because Mr Martin was black.

Mr Stelter’s original noted that it was the Media Research Center’s Newsbusters which first caught NBC’s “error in the production process,” and that NBC then said it would “investigate” what had happened.

Inside NBC, there was shock that the segment had been broadcast. Citing an anonymous network executive, Reuters reported that “the ‘Today’ show’s editorial control policies — which include a script editor, senior producer oversight and in most cases legal and standards department reviews of material to be broadcast — missed the selective editing of the call.”

Shock? Your Editor will be a bit more blunt here:

  • a script editor;
  • a senior producer;
  • a legal department reviewer; and
  • a standards department reviewer

all somehow failed to do their jobs. Just how many mistakes, on a very high profile case, does it take before it is no longer a mistake, but a willful act?

Mr Stelter concluded:

The people with direct knowledge of the firing characterized the misleading edit as a mistake, not a purposeful act.

To which your Editor replies, bovine feces!

Mary Mapes, for whom your Editor entitled the fictitious award for journalistic integrity, was the 60 Minutes producer who was not allowed to resign, but was just plain fired, for her role in the “Rathergate” scandal. At some point, your Editor would think, that the well-educated people who hold these very coveted jobs in broadcast news would have learned from the well-publicized mistakes by some of their predecessors, and that such “mistakes” constitute firing offenses.

More than that, the “Rathergate” scandal proved something more beyond the penalty for making such “mistakes:” it proved that, in highly political cases, there will be a highly motivated political opposition looking for “mistakes.” The review steps which NBC supposedly had in place existed precisely to prevent things like this from happening, because, in a generic sense, NBC and all serious journalistic companies take their journalistic reputations seriously. NBC News’ top people might have a just as strongly held set of views about the Martin/ Zimmerman case as anyone else, but the success of NBC News as a whole is more important to them than any particular story, and when their subordinates make “mistakes” such as happened in this case, the top brass’ loyalty to their company will outweigh any friendships they might have with the subordinates who made the “mistakes;” even Dan Rather himself did not survive the “Rathergate” scandal, though CBS did allow him a shred of dignity, by allowing him to move up his previously scheduled retirement by a year.

In any event, the whole thing was pointless. Unlike the 2004 election, which CBS News was deliberately trying to influence, whether George Zimmerman is charged with a crime and brought to trial will depend on the actual evidence, not some “erroneously” edited material. The unnamed NBC producer who is now out of a job — and the very public nature of his “mistake” and firing almost certainly means that he is done in the industry — threw away his job for absolutely nothing. The only question remaining is whether his head will be the only one to roll.

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