Phil Matier: How Could Asiana Pilot Names Hoax Happen?

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— After KTVU-TV aired a report  Friday that used bogus and offensive names for four pilots linked to the crash of Asiana Airlines flight 214 at San Francisco International, many people’s first reaction is, ‘how can something like this happen?’

Well trust me, there’s nothing tougher than trying to get information out of a media outlet when something goes wrong – they really shut down.

Monday we got word that Asiana Airlines plans to sue KTVU Channel 2 the fake names story.

This is a nightmare for any news organization. Credibility, sensitivity, issues of what goes on in the newsroom when outlets are preparing the news is now in the public’s mindset.

There’s a couple of scenarios I’d like to run by. The first being that a joke or hoax email came in to the network identifying the pilots and that it was handed off to someone at KTVU to confirm those names with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The NTSB has already blamed a summer intern for confirming that information to the news outlet. But we’re talking about a chain and that it went from one hand to another and another. A graphic was made and that’s what aired on KTVU’s Friday daytime newscast.

Another scenario could be maybe that graphic was lying around at KTVU as a joke out of poor taste and got used. Whatever the case; it wasn’t just one person that this inaccuracy got past and that’s part of the embarrassment.

This raises a question about the state of journalism and the public has questioned how many people are involved in the chain of journalists in the newsroom actually fact-checking information and verifying tips, leads, etc.

Also we have to examine our current push for speed driven by social media like Twitter, Facebook, etc. who are getting news up instantaneously, but often times from un-vetted sources and sometimes getting the story inaccurate. This has led to mistakes being made in the past and people have echoed inaccurate information on these types of social media outlets.

There have been cutbacks in newsrooms and we do have less-experienced people sometimes that are handed information under a lot of pressure to do more. In a commercial sense, the model now is breaking news first.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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