The Washington Post

NBC issues apology on Zimmerman tape screw-up

NBC apologizes to viewers, but not directly to this viewer. (AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

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.

That apology addresses the “Today” show’s failure to abridge accurately the conversation between Zimmerman and the dispatcher in this high-profile case. This is how the program portrayed a segment of that conversation:

Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.

And here is how it actually went down:

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.

No matter how you feel about Zimmerman, that bit of tape editing was unfair to the truth and to Zimmerman’s reputation, such as it is. Reaction on Twitter and elsewhere to my previous post on this matter, was brutal toward NBC, with many comments suggesting the worst about the network’s motivations, reliability and so on.

Does the statement adequately address those concerns? On the good front, it acknowledges the mistake and apologizes to viewers for the bad editing. It’s a forthright correction and spares us any excuses about the faulty portrayal. On the bad front, the statement is skimpy on the details on just how the mistake unfolded. Nor does it articulate an apology directly to George Zimmerman, the “viewer” who is most aggrieved by the screw-up. In light of all that’s happened, Zimmerman may be a tough person for a news network to apologize to, but that’s just the point: Apologies are hard.

View Photo Gallery: The fatal shooting of an unarmed black 17-year-old by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla., has led to a federal investigation, numerous protests and a national spotlight.

More on this story:

Who is George Zimmerman?

Supporters of Zimmerman wary of speaking out, fearing public backlash

Trayvon Martin’s parents commend Bobby Rush for wearing hoodie on House floor

Tracy Martin recounts police version of her son’s death

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.


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