Poynter: KTVU Stands Tall After Awful Mistake

As you well know by now, KTVU Oakland committed one of the most egregious gaffes in TV history by reporting bogus, and racially offensive, pilot names stemming from the plane crash at SFO, but Al Tompkins of Poynter Institute says the station, part of Cox Media Group, has done all the right things thereafter.

There are lessons for other journalists to replicate, says Tompkins.

He writes:

Today, KTVU News Director Lee Rosenthal (whom I’ve known for several years) told me the station cannot say more about the incident because Asiana Airlines says it plans to sue the station for harming its reputation. It’s worth noting that he could have sent me an email denying my interview request, or he could have had a third party call me. But he responded himself.

KTVU has never hidden from its mistake. It corrected the story quickly, on the same newscast where the mistake was made. The station corrected the story online, it apologized on subsequent newscasts, and station management issued apologies.

Tompkins suggests some new protocols, such as sounding out names before saying them on air, and more eyes on copy before it airs.

He concludes:

Nothing here excuses what happened on KTVU’s newscast Friday. But it does recognize that the station tried hard to stand tall when it made a mistake. I respect that. 

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.