Update: Producers are Fired at KTVU. Asiana drops plans to sue KTVU - Asian American Journalists Assoc Issues Statement on KTVU's Bogus Names of Pilots of SFO Asiana Flight 214 crash - Apologies from KTVU & National Transportation Safety Board

Posted by Suzanne Kai

Update July 26, 2013

San Francisco blogger Rich Lieberman has reported in his "Rich Lieberman 415 Media" blog that KTVU-TV has fired three of its veteran producers over the gaffe involving the fake names of the Asiana airline pilots broadcast on its news program. 

Leiberman provides a blow-by-blow account of his story of the firings. Click here for the full story

Meanwhile, San Francisco Chronicle columnists Andrew Ross and Phillip Matier, who is also a radio and TV broadcaster, credit Leiberman with breaking the news of the firings, and comment in their Ross & Matier SFGate.com blog on the reaction of colleagues.

Ross and Matier report that the colleagues were saddened but not completely surprised given the international attention the gaffe got, including a threat - later dropped - by Asiana to sue the station. "People are definitely down about it," one source said.

The columnists cite Randy Shandobil, a former KTVU political editor who left the station 2 1/2 years ago commenting on the gaffe as an example of a systemic problem with news reporters pressured and overtaxed everywhere. For the full story by Ross and Matier click here.

RELATED:

Update July 17, 2013
 
Asiana Airlines drops plans to sue KTVU-TV

UPDATE July 15, 2013

The Associated Press reports that Asiana will sue KTVU over broadcast of bogus names of four pilots of Asiana Flight 214 at SFO.

Related:

Reuters.com 

CBS News

Los Angeles Times

NBC News

 

July 12, 2013

 Asian American Journalists Association has issued the following updated statement regarding the offensive and erroneous information given to KTVU last Friday by the National Transportation 
Safety Board regarding last Saturday's Asiana crash.   Click here to the full AAJA statement.

ASIANA FLIGHT CRASH 2013-07-06

National Transportation Safety Board issues apology, says summer intern responsible for confirming erroneous information to KTVU. The station issued another apology, acknowledging lapses in its reporting. KTVU touted itself as the leading source for accurate coverage of last Saturday’s Asiana crash. That boast took a major hit Friday when the station fell victim to a hoax that made a mockery of the tragedy and offended many loyal viewers.

During its Friday noon newscast, the station reported that it had learned the names of the four pilots in the cockpit of the ill-fated flight, which crashed at San Francisco International Airport on July 6 and killed three passengers.

Those names were not only wrong, but so grossly offensive that it’s hard for us at the Asian American Journalists Association to fathom how those names made it on the broadcast. We choose not to repeat those names.

Some could argue that it wasn’t entirely KTVU’s fault. The station said it had confirmed the names with a phone call to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash.

Earlier in the afternoon, the NTSB said it had no role in confirming the names. But when pressed by KTVU and others, the agency looked deeper into the matter. By evening, the NTSB issued an apology.

“A summer intern acted outside the scope of his authority when he erroneously confirmed the names of the flight crew on the aircraft,” the agency said in a statement. “Appropriate actions will be taken to ensure that such a serious error is not repeated.”

Despite the NTSB’s apology, KTVU is hardly off the hook.

“It doesn’t make things right,” Lee Rosenthal, KTVU’s news director, conceded during a chat with MediaWatch Friday evening. Rosenthal acknowledged lapses in the reporting process. Questions that should have been asked weren’t, he said.

“We can assure you that none of this was premeditated nor was there any malicious intent in any way,” Rosenthal said.

With such a vaunted reputation among local news stations, we expected much more from KTVU. We fail to understand how those obviously phony names could escape detection before appearing on the broadcast and were spoken by the news anchor. We urge KTVU to conduct a thorough review to prevent similar lapses.

On its evening newscast, anchor Frank Somerville elaborated on the on-air blunder, explaining that the station made “several mistakes” after receiving the names from a source. The station declined to identify that source.

“First, we never read the names out loud, phonetically sounding them out,” he said. “Then, during our phone call to the NTSB where the person confirmed the spellings of the names, we never asked that person to give us their position with the agency.

“We heard this person verify the information without questioning who they were and then rushed the names on our noon newscast.”

AAJA is embarrassed for the anchor of the noon broadcast, who was as much a victim as KTVU’s viewers and KTVU’s hard-working staff, including the journalists who produced stellar work covering the crash.

But we’re mostly saddened that a tragedy that took the lives of three people and injured scores of other passengers could be taken as an opportunity for an apparent joke.

Paul Cheung, AAJA President
Bobby Caina Calvan, AAJA MediaWatch Chair


ORIGINAL STATEMENT

Words cannot adequately express the outrage we, at the Asian American Journalists Association, feel over KTVU’s on-air blunder that made a mockery of the Asiana Airlines tragedy and offended so many loyal viewers of the San Francisco Bay Area station.

During KTVU’s noon newscast, the anchor said the station had learned the names of the four pilots in the cockpit of the ill-fated flight, which crashed in San Francisco on July 6 and killed three passengers.

Unfortunately those names were not only wrong, but grossly offensive. We won’t repeat the names, which caricatured Asian names.

The station apologized later in the same newscast. Still, we fail to understand how a television news station with such a vaunted reputation could have fallen victim to such juvenile antics.

We are hardly satisfied with the station’s statements, and its unwillingness to help us understand how the gaffe originated.

Phone calls to the station’s news director, Lee Rosenthal, were not returned. A woman who answered the phone, and who declined to give her name, repeated the station’s contention that it was given the names by an agency. She called it a “hoax,” but declined to explain.

In a statement posted on its website, Tom Raponi, KTVU’s vice president and general manager, apologized. “Nothing is more important to us than having the highest level of accuracy and integrity,” he said, “and we are reviewing our procedures to ensure this type of error does not happen again.” The station acknowledged that it misidentified the Asiana pilots, but said the names were confirmed by an NTSB official in Washington.

AAJA reached out to a Washington spokesman for the NTSB, Terry Williams. Williams said he had “no idea” from where the names came, and that the agency did not confirm any of the names broadcast by the station. (UPDATE: NTSB statement on erroneous confirmation of crew names)

Even if the NTSB confirmed the information, the names originated from somewhere — and we fail to understand how those obviously phony names could escape detection before appearing on the broadcast and were spoken by the news anchor.

We are embarrassed for the anchor, who was as much a victim as KTVU’s viewers and KTVU’s hard-working staff, including the journalists who produced stellar work covering the crash.

But we’re mostly saddened that a tragedy that took the lives of three people and injured scores of other passengers could be taken as an opportunity for an apparent joke.

We urge KTVU to offer a better explanation.

Paul Cheung, AAJA President
Bobby Caina Calvan, AAJA MediaWatch ChairASIANA FLIGHT CRASH 2013-07-06

Click here to the AAJA website for further updates to the AAJA Statement