The Spectacle Blog

NBC News and the Death of Truth

By on 4.26.12 | 5:04PM

One of the horrifying sideshows of the Trayvon Martin carnival is how NBC News edited audio of George Zimmerman's 911 call to create the false impression that Zimmerman had said, "This guy looks like he’s up to no good ... he looks black."

As Dan Riehl at Breitbart.com's Big Journalism reported last month, NBC edited out a key part of that call. Zimmerman said that Martin appeared to be "on drugs or something. It's raining and he's just walking around, looking about." The 911 dispatcher then asked, "Okay, is this guy, is he white, black, or Hispanic?" Zimmerman was merely answering the dispatcher's question.

Not only did NBC edit the audio, but also edited Zimmerman's quotes as published on its Internet site, helping to foster the false belief that Zimmerman had singled out Martin because of his race. Yesterday, NBC News fired a producer/reporter at its Miami affiliate -- the second such reported firing in connection with the deceptive edit -- and the Miami Herald quoted an unnamed official at the Miami station:

“The network is very sensitive about the whole Al Sharpton/MSNBC issue, so when the right-wing bloggers started hammering, they needed to throw them fresh meat,” said the station source, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the controversy. “It’s not at all clear how this happened. Obviously, there was miscommunication.”

This would seem to suggest that NBC News is sacrificing low-level personnel -- throwing "fresh meat" to "right-wing bloggers" -- in an effort to evade corporate responsibility for an unethical deception that inflamed racial tensions in the Martin case. This enraged me:

Journalism has evidently become so politicized that there is apparently no longer even any need for NBC News to pretend that it is engaged in anything other than partisan propaganda — even when, in the pursuit of an overtly political agenda, they are providing manufactured falsehoods to serve as fodder for dangerous racial demagoguery.

Executives at NBC News need to provide a full accounting of how this happened. For weeks on end, their MSNBC cable outlet stoked the flames of outrage over the Martin case, outrage the network itself helped create with its editing of Zimmerman's 911 call. NBC's credibility as a news organization is at stake, and the network's executives themselves -- who created the corporate culture in which such deceptive "reporting" was tolerated -- must be held responsible.

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