Trayvon Martin update: NBC apologizes while CNN viewers confuse my focus on facts for support of Zimmerman
After investigating itself for days, NBC finally concluded what many outside critics already stated: That it made a serious mistake in editing audio from a 911 call by the man accursed of murdering an unarmed 17-year-old youth in Florida.
NBC apologized for what it called an "error in the production process" which cut out a question from a 911 dispatcher to make it look at if volunteer neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman brought up the race of teenager Trayvon Martin while reporting a suspicious person he was following.
NBC's apology: "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."
During the call, as Zimmerman is alerting police to someone he thinks is suspicious, the dispatcher asks "OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?" Zimmerman answers, "He looks black."
Take out the dispatcher's question, as NBC did in its editing last week, and it sounds as if Zimmerman is volunteering the information, which is a crucial point for those trying to prove that the man zeroed in on Martin because of his race.
This apology is, of course, insufficient, because it raises more questions than it answers. I assume NBC is not wanting to be sued or blamed for the tsunami of outrage which has fallen on Zimmerman's head, so they have offered no details on how the error occurred or why -- leaving conservative news outlets to make the worst assumptions about rushing to judgment and liberal media bias.
As others have pointed out, NBC didn't even apologize to Zimmerman, who was arguably made to look racist by the edit. I'm betting that was a legal decision, too.
NBC isn't helped, of course, by its connection to MSNBC, where the liberal-oriented cable channel employs a spokeman and advocate for Martin's family, Rev. Al Sharpton. Did MSNBC's opinionating in sympathy with the Martin family's concerns seep into NBC coverage? Probably not, but expect an enterprising lawyer to make that argument, particularly if Zimmerman avoids prosecution or is acquitted.
I was also disappointed to see NBC News correspondent Kerry Sanders present a story this morning on the Today's show suggesting forensics would make the difference in detailing what might have happened in the conflict between Martin and Zimmerman.
If the Casey Anthony case has taught us Floridians anything, it is the fact that forensics often fail to have the conclusive impact you see in TV crime dramas. If we're all lucky, there will be some unassailable evidence gleaned from the science to shed light on what happened, but I am highly skeptical.
Lastly, Monday was a busy day; I landed on three different CNN-affiliated programs, discussing the morning show wars with Suzanne Malveaux in midday and talking Trayvon Martin media coverage on HLN's Dr. Drew and CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight. See Transcirpt of Piers Morgan appearance here.
It was odd to see so many viewers who seemed to have decided Zimmerman is the victim of a rush to judgment assume that I agreed with them because I criticized TV's focus on the emotion in this case to the exclusion of focusing on evidence.
One person on Twitter suggested I felt this way because I am married to a white woman. A caller to my office was intensely interested in questions which might exonerate Zimmerman, but not so focused on questions which favored the Martin family's case.
I'm still highly suspicious of Zimmerman's account and even more suspicious of how local police handled the initial investigation. But I think TV anchors looking at blurry police video and conducting impromptu analysis of fuzzy 911 audio isn't helping anyone.
More than anything, we need facts. I would suggest all involved check out this timeline of the Trayvon Martin shooting from the Miami Herald for a great summation of the facts at hand so far.
Cable TV channels and online websites are focused on "owning" the story for their audiences, often catering to that audience's presumed view in their coverage. I'm a highly biased source, but I suggest spending more time with the newspapers covering this story well -- the Miami Herald and us -- for facts and a minimum of emotion.
The Daily Show, as always, breaks it down with an extra helping of funny: