Travel News

Travel Detective Blog: Asiana 214 KTVU Reporting Fail

Locations in this article:  San Francisco, CA

In the television news business, there are the inevitable, and accidental on-air bloopers, and then there are the inexcusable bloopers caused by bad fact checking — or in this case NO fact checking at all.

Oakland television station KTVU was reporting on the crash of Asiana Flight 214, and the reporter then read — with a totally straight face — the supposed names of the crew.

What were they thinking? Every news broadcast has a producer (at least one) and someone to provide that information (or in this case misinformation) to the teleprompter….Anyone who read the “names” of the crew prior to airing would have realized what was happening. All too often, in the rush to get on the air, we have a “rip and read” mentality, and this one was one of the worst examples of what can go wrong.

I know it’s politically incorrect and insensitive to make fun of this, especially since now three people were killed in the tragic accident…but I have to admit, when I first saw and heard this I couldn’t stop laughing.

But I would have to think that the initials of the producer who stupidly put this on the air would have to be C.E.M….as in… Career Ending Move.

Again, I apologize upfront for laughing, but I just had to share this.

UPDATE 7-12: Both KTVU and the National Transportation Safety Board released statements regarding this incident.  KTVU fact checked the incident with the NTSB, who had an summer intern answering the phone. The NTSB’s statement, apologized, “for inaccurate and offensive names that were mistakenly confirmed as those of the pilots of Asiana flight 214, which crashed at San Francisco International Airport on July 6.”

It’s worth noting that the pilots’ names were released earlier this week so a simple Google search would have been a more accurate fact check.

ADDITIONAL UPDATE 7-13: KTVU lead anchor Frank Somerville, who was not the anchor on duty during the gaffe, posted the following statement on Facebook.

Before I post anything else I have to address what happened on our Noon newscast.
Someone pranked us about the names of the 4 pilots on Asiana Flight 214.
And what we put on the screen and what we read over the air was insulting.

It was insulting to the Asian community.
It was insulting to the four pilots.
And it was insulting to our viewers.

The bottom line is that we messed up.
Yes, we called the NTSB to confirm.
And yes, the NTSB released a statement saying:
“Earlier today, in response to an inquiry from a media outlet, a summer intern acted outside the scope of his authority when he erroneously confirmed the names of the flight crew on the aircraft.”

But regardless we still put it on the air.
And we have no one to blame but us.
We should have known better.
We have a number of checks that scripts have to go thru before they reach the anchor desk.
Somehow on the Noon news this one slipped through.

I don’t understand why anyone would think doing something like this is funny.
A plane crashed.
Three people were killed.
Many more were injured.
Some of those injuries are life changing.
Yet someone thinks it’s funny to make jokes about the names of the pilots.
That makes me sick.

I’ve worked at KTVU for over 20 years.
We have a damn good staff.
We care deeply about what we do.
And we do not take mistakes like this lightly.
Everyone is seriously upset about what happened.
And everyone is going to make sure something like this NEVER happens again.

I always tell my kids, “If you make a mistake, come clean, admit what you did, say you’re sorry, and take the consequences.”

So that’s what I’m doing here.
We made a HUGE mistake.
There is NO excuse for what happened.
And speaking for everyone at the station, we are sorry.

UPDATE 7-17:  On Monday, Asiana Airlines announced that it will sue KTVU for damaging the airline’s reputation when it used the bogus and racially offensive names. By Wednesday, the airline has retracted its plans to sue and instead wants to move forward in its work supporting passengers and their families.