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Sunday, July 21st 2013

9:51 PM

What Have We Learned?

It's been nearly 10 days since the now infamous "Namegate" episode involving KTVU and the airing of fake, racially insensitive names for the pilots involved in a deadly plane crash in San Francisco.

What we have learned since then about how this happened is not much.

What other TV stations and news organizations have learned about now to not let this happen to them may be a lot more.

Here's the latest rundown of what we know and what we don't know:

We know that KTVU has apologized for the error.

We know that KTVU says that no one actually said the fake names out loud before they made it to air.

We know that anyone with a working knowledge of a television newsroom does not understand how NO ONE could have said those names out loud beforehand, especially since the station says it called the NTSB for confirmation.

We know that the NTSB sacked a summer intern who it said was just trying to be helpful when he overstepped his bounds and "confirmed" the fake names.

We know that Cox, the company that owns KTVU, has ordered an internal investigation into what happened. The investigation has reportedly concluded, but we don't know if anyone at KTVU has been fired or otherwise punished.

There's now WORD that KTVU is trying to get clips of the broadcast removed from YouTube. Good luck with that.

But, I think that what we DON'T know is way more interesting.

We don't know where the information came from. There have been reports that the fake names came from a "trusted" source; there's been speculation that someone at a competing news organization - or even a current or former KTVU staffer - could have provided the names. We don't know because KTVU hasn't said.

We don't know how the fake names came into the newsroom or who first handled the information. Did someone make a phone call? If so, who answered the phone? Were the names sent by email? If so, who got the email? Were the names faxed? Maybe texted? Who saw them first? We don't know because KTVU hasn't said.

Once the fake names were introduced to the station, what happened? What did the person who first got the names do next? We know that, at some point, someone called the NTSB. We know that, at some point, someone put the names onto a fullscreen graphic. We know that, at some point, someone wrote a script for the anchor to read. But, exactly how did the names get from source to screen? How many people "touched" this story before it made air? We don't know because KTVU hasn't said.

We don't know what the intern at the NTSB was thinking when he "confirmed" names that a) he had no business confirming; and b) he couldn't possibly know were right. Just what did KTVU say when he answered the phone? Just what did he say? We don't know because neither he, the NTSB, nor KTVU has said.

We don't know how these fake names could have possibly made it to air without anyone saying them out loud and/or hearing them said out loud. That's basically what KTVU is asking us to believe, but we don't know how that happened because KTVU hasn't said.

KTVU may have apologized, but an apology falls far short of explaining exactly how this happened.

If there's any good to come of this, it's that many other news organizations are reviewing their own policies and procedures to make sure that what happened to KTVU doesn't happen to them.
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