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Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Zimmerman Recording

A previous post noted that NBC once edited the words "under God" from a clip of the Pledge of Allegiance. A far more serious edit came during a March 27 segment of "Today" about the shooting of Trayvon Martin. The segment included the 911 call that George Zimmerman made before he shot Martin. Digital Journal reports:
The producer edited out a question from the 911 operator and then edited together Zimmerman's response to the missing question with a segment of his previous statement. By leaving out the question, Zimmerman was made to appear to be racially profiling Martin. The way it was edited made the conversation more sensationalistic.
Here is how NBC transcribed the conversation in its story: "This guy looks like he's up to no good," they have Zimmerman say. "He looks black."
And this is how the conversation actually occurred: "This guy looks like he's up to no good. Or he's on drugs or something," Zimmerman tells the 911 operator. "It's raining, and he's just walking around, looking about."
"OK, and this guy -- is he black, white or Hispanic?" the operator asks.
"He looks black." Not only did Zimmerman not bring up the issue of race, his response seems to suggest he wasn't even willing to be certain about the race of the person he was watching. 
Reuters reports on an interview with NBC News President Steve Capus, who says that an internal investigation revealed that the edit had been a mistake, and that the company had fired person responsible.
As part of the investigation, the producer who edited the call was questioned extensively about motivation, and it was determined that the person had cut the video clip down to meet a maximum time requirement for the length of the segment - a common pressure in morning television - and inadvertently edited the call in a way that proved misleading.

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.

Capus said that the network "takes its responsibility seriously" and has undertaken rigorous efforts to formalize the editorial safeguards in place at the network.

He said that NBC News' broadcast standards department, led by David McCormick, has been holding meetings with various NBC News shows, as well as the network's specialized units, which handle sometimes complicated subjects like medical or legal news. Capus added that he also is holding meetings among the network executives to reinforce the lessons learned from the investigation into the edited call.