So Who Gave the KTVU Anchor the Bogus Pilot Names?

I feel like the KTVU Oakland/bogus pilot names thing has pretty much run its course. The station messed up big-time, apologized, dismissed some senior staffers, and seeks to move on.

But one thing has bedeviled me since the story broke last month–who initially supplied the offensive names? Was the joker in house, or over at NTSB, or what? I keep reading that the NTSB intern “confirmed” the bogus names, but who came up with them in the first place?

A senior Cox exec would not say, and KTVU management, including news director Lee Rosenthal and GM Tom Raponi, haven’t returned my calls.

Bay Area media blogger Rich Lieberman says source of the names, which included “Sum Ting Wong” and “Bang Ding Ow”, is a former pilot who has worked with KTVU in the past. He writes:

Another individual close to [dismissed producer Roland] De Wolk said that the source that provided the fake pilot’s names,(electronically via e-mail or text), was an ex-pilot who had worked with KTVU in the past and was considered to be trustworthy.

I asked the source if the pilot knowingly sent the names as a joke and if so, did the station know? “Apparently not.” At least 4-5 people saw the list of names, including anchor, Tori Campbell, who read them on the air on KTVU’s Noon Newscast, Friday, July 12th.

Lieberman says he has not yet confirmed the ex-pilot’s name.

The San Francisco Chronicle has run Lieberman’s report.

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, the L.A. Times and New York magazine.