Different Standards for Broadcast News?


NBC News

NBC News (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Sunday, David Carr, of the New York Times published an article called, “TV News Corrects Itself, Just Not on the Air.”

The “Today” show for NBC decided last month to air an edited clip of the 911 call made by George Zimmerman.  Zimmerman as you know is currently facing a second-degree murder charge in the death of Trayvon Martin.  According to Carr’s article, the show edited the clip, which ended up making Zimmerman sound as though he was making racist comments.  Carr called the edited clip, “…misleading, incendiary and dead-bang wrong…”

Carr goes on to say that while NBC took swift action after realizing the terrible editing, albeit a week after it originally aired and re-aired, which included an investigation, the firing of the producer in charge and an apology.

Carr points out that what the network didn’t do, was make an on-air correction.  Not during any of the four hours of the show was there one second dedicated to a correction that would set the audience straight.

Carr states, “What is it with television news and corrections? When the rest of the journalism world gets something wrong, they generally correct themselves. But network news acts as if an on-air admission of error might cause a meteor to land on the noggin of one of its precious talking heads. NBC used all of the powers at its disposal to amend the mistake, except the high-visibility airtime where the bad clip ran in the first place.”

Carr reached out to Steve Capus, president of NBC News, and much to his disappointment, Capus agreed with Carr.

Capus stated in Carr’s article, “We did an awful lot of work after it happened. We did an exhaustive investigation, I did interviews with a lot of publications to get the message out, but we probably should have done it on our own air.”

Carr wraps up his article saying, “Give NBC credit for dealing with a big error that threatened to sow further mayhem on a very delicate story. It’s just too bad it failed to remember that the fix for bad journalism generally includes more journalism. The kind that goes on the air.”

I agree with Carr.  The network absolutely should have aired a correction, especially given the very nature in the evolution of this case and its national attention.

When Carr mentions that television news never corrects itself unless it is to make a lawsuit go away, I cringe at the comment.  Why is this the case?  Does broadcast journalism hold itself to a different journalistic standard than papers and other forms of the news media?  Shouldn’t this type of behavior, airing corrections on the same broadcast show that made the mistake, be included in a “best practices” standard?  I certainly think it should.  Considering the amount of people out there that still get their news from television broadcasts, I would think that keeping the public correctly informed would be a major characteristic and goal of any network.

I think it’s time that broadcast news, as it pertains to corrections, be held to the very same standards that the print media and online media follow.  Journalism is journalism, and accuracy should be equally required across the board.

Carr speaks with Aaron Brown, a professor of journalism and former anchor.  Brown states, “But given how high-profile that this screw-up was and the fact that it became a news story itself, I’m shocked that they didn’t correct it on the ‘Today’ show.”

Exactly Mr. Brown.  In my view, you and David Carr hit the nail on the head.

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About kendra75

Freelance journalist, researcher, history buff and full time student.

Posted on April 23, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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