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.

52 Comments

  1. Editor, it’s highly unlikely NBC’s multiple layers of professional editors, producers and reviewers didn’t notice the blatant forgery of George Zimmerman’s 911 call. Something like that doesn’t just slip by without being checked and double checked, the whole system is designed to catch errors and mistakes, it’s what they get paid to do.

    The only thing that fits the facts is that it was deliberate. Any regular employee would know doing anything like that would result in immediate dismissal. It’s much more likely someone very high up instructed the technicians to doctor the tape.

    Which, if true, would leave a number of people at NBC who know the truth, but haven’t yet come forward for reasons we don’t know, but which we can easily imagine.

    If so, the individual responsible must be a very senior executive and NBC is in full circle the wagons protection mode.

  2. People do go after Fox News. The Media Research Center is conservative in its orientation, and naturally they go after the liberally-biased news sources, but Media Matters, a (far-left whacko) liberal site goes over everything Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity say, looking for anything they can attack.

  3. Teach, the thought did cross my mind, I’m glad you gave it voice.

    An organization that would manufacture fake evidence to inflame the bloodthirsty savages hunting Zimmerman, a man with a cash bounty on his head, surely wouldn’t be above a little misdirection to avoid responsibility for a viciously craven calumny.

  4. Then someone who pays Comcast for TV service might want to look into another provider, one who isn’t involved in manufacturing false narratives in order to inflame lynch mobs.

  5. John Sexton at Breitbart reports that speculation has centered on a specific Today Show producer. Sexton reports his name. Go to Brietbart if you want to know the name. I’m unwilling to post it without confirmation.

  6. P.J. Salvatore at Brightbart has a commentary about Paul Bond’s report in The Hollywood Reporter about CNN’s attempt to paint George Zimmerman as a racist: (While continuing to paint Zimmerman as a racist, and adopting NBC’s methods of evading responsibility. See bold.)

    The cable news network twice enhanced audio of a 911 call placed by George Zimmerman and came up with two different results.

    Conservative new-media types are having a field day picking apart CNN for its report claiming George Zimmerman called Trayvon Martin a “f—ing coon” the night he killed him, then later saying that it might have erred: What the news network thought was a racial slur might actually have been the word “cold.”

    The video of CNN’s latest report was added to its website Wednesday but didn’t circulate wide around the Internet until Thursday. The piece, which is fronted by anchor Wolf Blitzer, features reporter Gary Tuckman and an expert who enhanced a 911 call placed by Zimmerman. The recording, while scratchy, has Zimmerman seemingly complaining about an unusually cold night in Florida the night he gunned down the 17-year-old black youth.

    The same reporter with a different expert, though, previously reported that the enhanced 911 call indicated that what Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, said that night proved that he was a racist who may have been motivated to shoot Martin because of his skin color.

  7. Mr Teach wrote:

    I wonder if it’ll come out that no one was actually fired, and that NBC was pulling a bit of misdirection? Just my little conspiracy theory.

    No way. The damage to NBC would be worse when that came out, and you know that it would come out. I can see NBC slipping him a nice, but quiet, severance package, but they had to get rid of him.

    If he’s the guy speculated about, he’s only 44 years old, but he’s finished in that industry. There are too many other guys with the same credentials looking for work for anyone to take a chance on a producer canned for falsifying a news report.

  8. “Perry, NBC inflamed racial tensions with a doctored tape, yet you want to go after FOX NEWS. How typical of you.”

    Ropelight, I cited a long list of journalistic flaws committed by Fox News. Let us go after both when the commit journalistic transgressions.

  9. Perry, as soon as you admit that Media Mutters is a radical fringe Leftist organization that lies more than it tells the truth, perhaps you will begin to have a point somewhere. The fact is NBC put out an intentionally inflamatory and intentionally misrepresentative bit of lie which they claimed was news. And their reason was to do just what it did: inflame people through intentional deceit (that would be LIES by commission and/or omission, which they did both of). NBC took part in race-baiting in order to destroy a private citizen. CBS took part in absolutely fraudulent so-called reporting in order to attempt to destroy a Republican HUMAN BEING so they could try to get a Democrat elected. And basically all the Left-Wing Media chimed in to help, without doing their own due diligence (since the material was readily available for them, if they even bothered to look).

    What people like Perry and the Lamestream Media can’t get into their island-living heads is:

    This is a new day. The Lamestream Media no longer has a monopoly in which to tell their radical Leftist lies. They will be found out. And through the internet, their lies will go viral. And even they cannot prevent the whirlwind they are reaping after they sowed to the wind.

  10. No journalistic effort is going to be perfect, because everyone makes mistakes. All of the professional news sources occasionally get some facts wrong.

    But there’s a huge difference between using forged documents (CBS) and deliberately altering a tape/transcript to change its meaning (NBC) for political gain and simply making a mistake. Quite frankly, I don’t have much faith in the idea that ABC would proceed with the “no visible wound” story simply as a mistake, when they have the video enhancement technology available, but I can’t prove that that was deliberate.

  11. Koolo, here is the list compiled by Jon Stewart which you should especially enjoy. And here is the cite I had used earlier, which is the one Mr Hitchcock attacked here.

    Interestingly enough, perhaps inadvertently, Mr Hitchcock must have changed my earlier link here, because it does not work now. However, he did see the linked item himself, because he responded to it.

    Note: Unfortunately, this post will go into moderation, since this blog, FSJ, will only strangely enough permit only one link per post. So not only is the commenter, like myself, limited to only one link, he/she is unable to post a graph or a picture, thus allowing the owner and his administers a lot more expressive power than any of us commenters.

  12. Since my post is in moderation for posting too many links, here is the cite I used earlier, which contains a long list of Fox News lies:

    Look here. I had used earlier, which is the one Mr Hitchcock attacked

    [Referenced comment released from moderation at 0941. -- Editor]

  13. A big point has been made here that NBC committed an egregious breach of journalistic integrity, to which I agree. So NBC discharged the responsible party. Who are the responsible parties who committed the Fox News breaches. Have any of them been discharged? I am not aware of any who have, so Mr Hitchcock especially, as well as ropelight and Yorkshire, are blatantly practicing a double standard, no standard for Fox, and a strict standard for the rest of the MSM. I have yet to see one wingnut on here attack the Fox News Channel for anything!

  14. SINP writes

    Koolo, here is the list compiled by Jon Stewart which you should especially enjoy. And here is the cite I had used earlier, which is the one Mr Hitchcock attacked here.

    Is this where I should admonish you for avoiding the real issue, SINP — that of CBS and NBC deliberately lying and/or altering comments to obtain a preconceived outcome? Isn’t this precisely what you do — all the time, too — when your ideological opponents point out the faults of the other side?

    Oh, and gosh — how hard would it be to post a similar list of irregularities by the mainstream media? In fact, it has already been done by others here, usually at the usual demand for citations by yourself, to which you then ignore them.

    Note: Unfortunately, this post will go into moderation, since this blog, FSJ, will only strangely enough permit only one link per post. So not only is the commenter, like myself, limited to only one link, he/she is unable to post a graph or a picture, thus allowing the owner and his administers a lot more expressive power than any of us commenters.

    Yeah, how dare the actual owners and contributors maintain advantages for themselves on their blog, while limiting mere visitors in scope. Here, I have a solution: If you’re unhappy with the arrangement, leave.

  15. SINP writes

    So NBC discharged the responsible party. Who are the responsible parties who committed the Fox News breaches.

    That Stewart list is hilarious. Are you serious, SINP? “Calling ObamaCare a government takeover of healthcare,” for example, means relevant Fox employees should be axed just like the recent NBC employee? If that’s your standard, then virtually every mainstream media reporter would be out of a job right now. As certainly every politician, most especially our current president.

  16. SINP writes

    So NBC discharged the responsible party.

    As has been pointed out, without right-leaning new media (y’know, like FNC), NBC 1) never would have been called out, and 2) the employee responsible would never have been axed.

  17. Interestingly enough, perhaps inadvertently, Mr Hitchcock must have changed my earlier link here, because it does not work now. However, he did see the linked item himself, because he responded to it.

    No, Perry, I did not touch your comment from the admin side whatsoever. And I did hover over your link which pointed right back to this thread. And when I comment on threads, I do so from the everyman side. When I look at comments, I do so from the everyman side. It only makes more sense and is more followable that way.

    Besides, half the time, I’m not even logged in.

    All the administrators on this site can confirm that I never touched your comment.

  18. I just know you’re infatuated with the absolute radical lying Leftist, convicted criminal and Nazi collaborator George Soros-funded Media Mutters. I also know you’re infatuated with the absolute radical lying Leftist MSNBC. When you start saying something and how someone else said something, we already know you will name someone from a very short list we already have.

  19. When koolo has no debate on an issue, like Fox News mistakes and outright lies, he attacks the messenger, as he just did. Between Media Matters and Jon Stewart, is compiled a long list of Fox News journalistic sins, where hard core, lying partisans themselves fall right into the same line of lies. The list is there, koolo, right in front of your eyes. And then you have Rush Limbaugh. OMG! I point out that it remains true that wingnuts like koolo simply cannot bring themselves to criticize either Fox News or Limbaugh, or even the Murdochs, which reduces his credibility to nearly zero, even when criticizing yours truly!

    So my suggestion for you, koolo, and your wingnut colleagues, in order to improve your knowledge and credibility on the issues of the day, is to watch UP with Chris Hayes, and MHP with Melissa Harris-Perry, in the morning on Saturdays and Sundays on MSNBC.

    PS: OK Mr Hitchcock, it looks like I messed up my own link. Appreciate your checking on it.

  20. “Perry, I suppose there are people more blatantly dishonest than you, but only one of them comments here.”

    It is quite obvious that disagreeing with you, ropelight, or koolo or Mr Hitchcock, is blatant dishonesty, according to the wingnut dictionary and to your ideology. Fox News and Limbaugh (et al) make this crystal clear to all of you lemmings, but not to the rest of us who are possessed with discernment and skepticism about the right-wing ranters and preachers!

    You did not even have the gumption to cite some examples which disturb you. Useless criticism!

  21. Is that it, Perry? Nothing but more distraction and double talk, more attempts to blame convenient scapegoats, ad nauseum? More calls for citations, more absurd claims to virtues you don’t possess, don’t value, and have no intention of living up to?

    Your comments on this topic are all the examples a jury would need to convict you of two-faced hypocrisy writ large. The truth sets men free, but you choose to slither in the gutters on the other side of the street.

    Faced with evidence of a coordinated major broadcast and print media falsification of audio and video records to manufacture a racial conflagration, first you rush to judgment, then you blame FOX NEWS, the one network that didn’t go off half cocked and try to sacrifice George Zimmerman on the alter of duplicity.

    And now you pretend your own blatant dishonesty is nothing more than the result of disagreeing with me and a few others here who have the audacity to hold a mirror up to your face.

    Pathetic, absolutely pathetic.

  22. Like I said, ropelight, disagreeing with folks like yourself is tantamount to being dishonest and hypocritical in your mind.

    Did you miss what I said upthread? Look here:

    “A big point has been made here that NBC committed an egregious breach of journalistic integrity, to which I agree.”

    Regarding CBS and ABC, I do not know what they have done. Perhaps you will explain it to me, ropelight, or better yet, give me a link.

    But when the transgression is on the wingnut press, not one word of criticism from most of you, you included, our Editor being an occasional exception.

    Let’s have an example of my “blatant dishonestly”, so your rant is at least related to something I said? If you make the case, I’ll agree with you and try to be more careful.

    I’ll give you an example of your blatant dishonesty, ropelight: Never chastising koolo or Mr Hitchcock for their slime. It’s all one-sided to you.

    Did you read my two citations on the Fox News lies? Not one word from you about it, ropelight!

    So next time you think hypocrisy, give me an example, and look inward as well.

    In light of the above, I reciprocate: “Pathetic, absolutely pathetic”!

  23. Wagonwheel, commenting on an article declaring what CBS has done, declares that he doesn’t know what CBS has done, and demands a citation; thereby proving yet again (for the bazillionth time) his abject dishonesty in demanding citations that practically everyone knows he won’t read, anyway.

  24. Well I missed the ABC piece, Mr Editor, just like you missed Jon Stewart’s piece which I cited. Being a comedian does not cancel truth in political comment, except to one who shuts his eyes and ears. That couldn’t be you, Mr Editor, as in The New Jim Crow and Drift?

  25. Wagonwheel says:
    April 8, 2012 at 19:24 (Edit)

    Like I said, ropelight, disagreeing with folks like yourself is tantamount to being dishonest and hypocritical in your mind.

    Did you miss what I said upthread? Look here:

    “A big point has been made here that NBC committed an egregious breach of journalistic integrity, to which I agree.”

    Regarding CBS and ABC, I do not know what they have done.

    John Hitchcock says:
    April 8, 2012 at 19:51 (Edit)

    Wagonwheel, commenting on an article declaring what CBS has done, declares that he doesn’t know what CBS has done, and demands a citation; thereby proving yet again (for the bazillionth time) his abject dishonesty in demanding citations that practically everyone knows he won’t read, anyway.

    Wagonwheel says:
    April 8, 2012 at 19:57 (Edit)

    My comment was on what NBC has done. I’ve said nothing about CBS.

    This is why you cannot ever be trusted, Wagonwheel. Your falsehoods are so glaringly blatant. Your double-standards are so blatantly obvious. Your willingness to learn is so glaringly non-existent.

  26. Mr Hitchcock, instead of your usual unsubstantiated garbage, why don’t you just furnish a citation about what CBS has done? Normal people would do that, without asking!

    And by the way, it appears that NBC made a mistake, and did not intentionally mislead, according to their President. Has Fox News ever admitted to even one of their plethora of mistakes?

  27. WW wrote:

    **Breaking News**

    NBC News President defends their “mistake”.

    Yeah, they are still claiming that it was just a mistake, an “error in the production process.” I guess that’s why a senior producer got fired.

    NBC News has apologized for the incident, saying in a statement to Reuters earlier this week that there was “an editing error in the production process,” but insisting the results of the internal investigation would not be announced publicly.

    Yeah, uh huh, right.

    I note here that WW made no comment at all, but simply reported the story.

  28. SINP writes

    So my suggestion for you, koolo, and your wingnut colleagues, in order to improve your knowledge and credibility on the issues of the day, is to watch UP with Chris Hayes, and MHP with Melissa Harris-Perry, in the morning on Saturdays and Sundays on MSNBC.

    Did you actually type that with a straight face? Or right after you smacked your wife around?

  29. Mr Editor, do you approve of this?

    ” Or right after you smacked your wife around?”

    That is an unbelievably nasty thing to say about a person. And this from a school teacher, of all people.

  30. SINP writes

    Has Fox News ever admitted to even one of their plethora of mistakes?

    Wait — you don’t know?? You, who claims you watch a “variety” of news sources, including Fox? Or, was that yet another SINP lie and a mere reliance on your usual radical blogs for “vindication” of your preconceived notions?

    “Special Report” and O’Reilly corrects mistakes whenever they make them.

    PS: OK Mr Hitchcock, it looks like I messed up my own link. Appreciate your checking on it.

    You forgot “Oh, and sorry for implying you were up to no good, previously. At any rate, I’ll now go back to being my usual miserable, whining, hypocritical crybaby self.”

  31. SINP writes

    That is an unbelievably nasty thing to say about a person. And this from a school teacher, of all people.

    Yeah, it’s almost as nasty as making comments about a person’s teaching ability based on being angry about being proven wrong by someone in here. Or, implying that someone is cheating on their taxes because he doesn’t like the way someone here invests/ saves his money.

    What’s the big deal, SINP? In your own words, if you’re not guilty, you have nothing to worry about. Do you remember those words, SINP? You’re obviously in the passive side of your passive-aggressive syndrome now, feeling all “hurt” by the very same tactics you apply here regularly.

  32. “Yeah, uh huh, right.

    I note here that WW made no comment at all, but simply reported the story.”

    You don’t know the truth, Mr Editor, and neither do I. Nevertheless, it appears that you have made up your mind anyway. Impressive!

  33. Given that NBC already has established a reputation for lying about this story, the notion that they would conduct an internal investigation, and then decline to reveal the results to us does not exactly inspire confidence that they are not trying to whitewash this whole episode. But, my guess is that that line won’t hold: public pressure will force them to disclose the whole truth.

  34. Wagonwheel says:
    April 8, 2012 at 20:33 (Edit)

    Mr Hitchcock, instead of your usual unsubstantiated garbage, why don’t you just furnish a citation about what CBS has done? Normal people would do that, without asking!

    Normal people already know what your demands for citation are: absolute dishonest diversionary tactics. Because we already know exactly what happens when those citations are provided: you ignore them completely.

    This thread is a case in point. The article title references the CBS lies. The article itself discusses the CBS lies. Which article? The one at the top of this page? Which article? The article the Editor wrote, which you can read at the top of the page. Which article? The article upon which you have chosen to comment multiple times and have been proven to be debating without any semblance of integrity, whatsoever.

    I wouldn’t think I would have to link to the article upon which thread I am currently commenting! But this isn’t the first time you’ve blatantly demanded citations that were already produced in the article upon which you are commenting to demand citations!

  35. Yup, wagonwheel ran off with his tail between his legs, unwilling and unable to admit what I had said all along is what I said and his demand for “citations” was provided long before his demand was made — again.

  36. Yup, wagonwheel ran off with his tail between his legs, unwilling and unable to admit what I had said all along is what I said and his demand for “citations” was provided long before his demand was made — again.

    Par for the course. This — http://www.journal14.com/2012/04/07/the-mary-mapes-award-for-journalistic-integrity-goes-to/comment-page-1/#comment-21073 — says it all about SINP’s duplicity … says one thing, then says the complete opposite, then demands YOU cite where/when he said it.

  37. John Hitchcock says:
    April 9, 2012 at 09:50

    Yup, wagonwheel ran off with his tail between his legs, unwilling and unable to admit what I had said all along is what I said and his demand for “citations” was provided long before his demand was made — again.”

    He’s probably trying to figure out how he’s going to try and finesse the issue if and when it is shown that his emotionalism, his uncritical raving over imaginary facts, and his virtual incitement to violence, are part and parcel of what has led to actual violence and bloodshed.

    What will then be Perry’s role, Perry’s guilt? As he has incited against the Zimmerman family by impugning their motives and their integrity, what will his reaction be if they are assaulted and it nonetheless turns out they have been all along telling the truth about a fractured nose, a bloodied head, and a threat of death?

    What claim then of personal and familial immunity will Perry be morally entitled to make on his own behalf?

    If those circumstances come to pass thanks to his and many others’ like-minded efforts, he had better hope that a plea of insanity will be accepted.

  38. The following excerpt is from Ben Shapiro’s article at Breitbart from 4/4/12. It’s still relevant.

    EDITGATE: BUCK STOPS WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS

    This month, NBC News broadcast a heavily edited tape of George Zimmerman’s 911 call in the Trayvon Martin case. The tape itself was fully available. And NBC News, as we’ve reported, cut the relevant portion of the tape deliberately in order to make Zimmerman look like a racist. Here’s the transcript of the original recording:

    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.

    Here’s the transcript of the edited recording:

    ZIMMERMAN: This guy looks like he’s up to no good … he looks black.

    The point is obvious. The unedited version shows Zimmerman offering the race of the suspect only when prompted, and doing so hesitantly. The edited version shows Zimmerman eagerly linking somebody being “up to no good” and somebody being “black.” The edited tape was broadcast on “Today” on March 27. NBC’s Ron Allen was the reporter on the scene – and, not coincidentally, he remained the reporter for NBC Nightly News as well. Matt Lauer was part of the report. So was Rachel Maddow. The entire staff was associated with this doctored recording.

    Now NBC News has released an apology for the edited video:

    “During our investigation it became evident that there was an error made in the production process that we deeply regret. We will be taking the necessary steps to prevent this from happening in the future and apologize to our viewers.”

    The network did not, however, apologize to George Zimmerman. And this certainly is not an “error” in the production process. A very specific set of words was cut. It was not random. And it was not a mistake.

    So the question becomes: whose head should roll?

    The answer is obvious: Brian Williams.

    Williams has been, since 2004, the managing editor of NBC News. And this was no mistake. It was a purposeful attempt to drive the narrative against Zimmerman. It is Williams’ job to see that the facts are reported rather than skewed. And the buck stops with him.

    This is no isolated incident for Williams. He’s an ardent leftist who began his career by interning for Jimmy Carter. When Williams moderated a Republican debate in September 2011, he asked Rick Perry how he could sleep at night while implementing the death penalty as governor of Texas. After September 11, he implied that America’s “military swagger” provided the impetus for the attacks. He compared the bombing of Iraq to the U.S. military bombing of Japan in its indiscriminateness.

    Williams once explained, “[NBC News has an] inordinate number of editors. Every word I write, before it goes on air, goes through all kinds of traps and filters, and it’s read by all kind of different people who point out bias.” He’s at the top of that food chain. And it’s his news department that helped ratchet up the Trayvon Martin story to the point of violence.

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