KTVU Fires Producers for Racist Asiana Crash Report, Attempts to Scrub Internet

Almost three weeks after KTVU afternoon anchor Tori Campbell read fake, racist names while reporting on the July 6 Asiana flight 214 crash, the news station is still cleaning up its mess. The station confirmed Wednesday that it has fired at least three longtime producers over the on-air gaffe, which went viral a few seconds after Campbell stopped talking. But in an effort to erase any video evidence of the blunder, KTVU has also begun using copyright law to demand that YouTube remove videos of its anchor’s mistake.

During July 12’s noon news segment, Campbell identified the Asiana crew as: “Captain Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Lee Fuk, and Bang Ding Ow.” A summer intern at the National Transportation Safety Board apparently confirmed the names, which does nothing to explain who gave them to the TV station in the first place.

San Francisco media blogger Rich Lieberman broke the news about the firings of investigative producer Roland De Wolk, special projects producer Cristina Gastelu and producer Brad Belstock. According to Lieberman, Belstock was not involved in getting the phony names on air, but was fired for violating KTVU’s social-media policy when he tweeted “Oh sh*t” following the gaffe.
Lieberman also reported that Campbell and News Director Lee Rosenthal—who boasted in a July 8 press release about KTVU’s “100 percent accurate” coverage of flight 214—are likely safe from being fired. Campbell, who is currently on vacation unrelated to the incident, recently signed a long-term contract with the station. But the firings may not end with Wednesday’s producers, as KTVU’s parent company Cox Communications continues to lead an internal investigation at the station.

An interesting subplot to all of this is the mix of shame and pomposity still on display. While KTVU is certainly embarrassed by airing the incorrect and racist pilot names, and it is trying to scrub the Internet of all video record, it has not taken down a post touting its coverage of the crash, including a number of “firsts!” Of course, being the first to report racist names is not included in the list.

The method in which Cox is attempting to force other websites take down the video is also novel. As first reported by a variety of blogs, the media conglomerate has been citing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (or DMCA) to force the removal of online videos of the Asiana segment.

KTVU vice president and general manager Tom Raponi told MediaBistro that the takedown notices are meant to decrease the videos negative impact. “By now, most people have seen it,” he said. “At this point, continuing to show the video is also insensitive and offensive, especially to the many in our Asian community who were offended.”

It’s a clever bit of spin from Raponi, as SF Weekly’s Dan Mitchell notes that invoking copyright claims “to remove humiliating video is apparently becoming standard practice among TV news outlets.” KTVU has not taken a similar position with many with other videos of its telecasts circulating on the web.

4 Comments

  1. Geez get over it KTVU wasn’t a big thing.  I still don’t see the racism in it but whatever.  They couldn’t of just gave the employees a letter of reprimand instead of firing them.

  2. KTVU’s latest flailing around will become the latest example of the Streisand Effect, where something horribly embarrassing or personal about you is released — perhaps a sex tape, or a rather embarrassing photograph — and you want that information locked back up. So you do whatever it takes to make the information go away: lawsuits, cease-and-desists, DMCA takedowns, whatever you have at hand. But instead of the information remaining obscure, the information becomes more widely known as the efforts to censor it become public, and people who would otherwise be uninterested are curious as to what the commotion is about. The information gets mirrored and copied and spread at a much faster rate than before the censorship attempt, often to the dismay and frustration of those trying to prevent it, and becoming a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. See: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/StreisandEffect

    Already some websites are fighting back citing “Fair Use” provisions in copyright law. I suspect that the longer this goes on, the more people will see and know about this.

    As Josh Feldman wrote, “This little piece of news had faded away while other big, pressing stories like childbirth dominated the headlines. But by trying to take down the videos of their unfortunate mishap, KTVU has basically reminded people of it, like the now-infamous incident from which the Streisand effect got its name.”
    http://www.mediaite.com/online/bang-ding-ow-my-bad-ktvu-pulling-videos-of-their-report-on-fake-asiana-pilots-from-youtube/

  3. The firings were over the top. Especially the firing of the employee who tweeted. I couldn’t believe it. Typical knee jerk reaction to negative publicity.