NBC's Botch Job on Zimmerman

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 5 2012 10:03 AM

NBC's Botch Job on Zimmerman

ORLANDO, Fla. -- It was Erik Wemple's blog that first clued me in to the Today Show screw-up. The gist: One of the first segments on George Zimmerman's final 911 call made a context-shredding edit. Here was the conversation between Zimmerman and a dispatcher.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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.
Advertisement

And here was what Today ran.

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

The difference? Let's say you're the least racist person on the planet. You're like the "human being" mascot from Community. You are asked whether someone in your line of sight is black, white, or Hispanic. You say "black." A little different then vouching the information yourself, isn't it?

NBC News* has announced that there was "an error made in the production process that we deeply regret." Sure. It's possible that some editor clipped the audio because the difference didn't really occur to them. The larger story, at the time, was that Zimmerman had made a series of 911 calls about suspicious-looking black youths in the gated community. NBC screwed up, badly. It added special sauce where no sauce was required.

But the NBC screw-up has produced another, more meta story. Wemple's post about the screw-up, which keys off of the Media Research Center's original scoop, is the most popular item in the history of his blog. It's gotten 13,000 shares on Facebook, more than 2000 comments, nearly 1000 tweets. His follow-up about the apology is just as popular, with twice as many comments. There's fuming about Al Sharpton, strategizing for a Zimmerman defamation lawsuit, etc. It's passionate. This is just a fractal of something that's been going on for two weeks: The backlash to the Martin "narrative." You saw this in the Pew poll about new opinions of the case, and I hear it in some conversations in Florida. We were told that this case had something to do with race, and it doesn't. It needs to stop before somebody gets hurt. And NBC's botch job is fat, low target to shoot at.

*I'm an MSNBC contributor, FWIW.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Sports Nut

Grandmaster Clash

One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Food

How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

Scotland Is Inspiring Secessionists Across America

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 18 2014 10:42 AM Scalia’s Liberal Streak The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 18 2014 11:25 AM Gays on TV: From National Freakout to Modern Family Fun
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 11:40 AM Where Pregnant Women Aren't Allowed to Work After 36 Weeks  
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 11:48 AM Watch the Hilarious First Sketch From Season 4 of Key & Peele
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 10:07 AM “The Day It All Ended” A short story from Hieroglyph, a new science fiction anthology.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 18 2014 7:30 AM Red and Green Ghosts Haunt the Stormy Night
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.