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Thursday, July 25th 2013

9:17 PM

We Know the Who, but Not the Why

The other shoe(s) have started dropping at KTVU in the wake of the so-called "Namegate" scandal.

Late last night, San Francisco media blogger Rich Lieberman REPORTED that several KTVU staffers have now been fired. They include the station's investigative producer and the special projects producer, both of whom have worked at the station for long periods of time. It's unclear exactly what they did that resulted in the station airing fake, racially-insensitive names of the pilots on the Asiana Airlines plane that crashed at SFO on July 6.

Also fired was a producer who supposedly had no part in the story, but who Tweeted "Oh s**t!" just moments after the names aired on July 12. His sin seems to be violating the station's policy for social media.

Also out the door is the veteran producer of KTVU's noon newscast. He reportedly retired for health reasons. Lieberman cites sources who say the producer announced his intention to retire before the crash ever happened, and it's unclear if he played any role in bringing the fake names to air.

The firings and retirement at KTVU follow an internal investigation by Cox, the media conglomerate that owns KTVU. Lieberman is hearing that more people could be fired, but he also NAMES a few key players who appear to be safe.

While we now know who is paying for the systemic failure surrounding this incident, KTVU has yet to give an accounting of any kind of how this whole thing happened in the first place. According to SFGATE.COM, the fake names were emailed to the station by an expert source who had helped out KTVU in the past. Sfgate.com also reports that the names had been circulating on the Internet for at least a couple of days before the source emailed them to KTVU. Sfgate says its information came from sources of its own.

As best as I can tell, the information in the sfgate article is the most definitive explanation I've seen for how the names were introduced into the newsroom.

But, even though that question has finally been answered (by someone other than KTVU, I might add), there are still plenty of other questions out there - including how these fake names, which had supposedly be circulating on the Internet for a couple of days, got past a staff that included a veteran investigative reporter, a veteran special projects producer and a veteran newscast producer. These are not interns or people who just got out of college. These are people who spent years in the news business. How did this happen on their watch?

Beyond that, still to be learned is why KTVU's source emailed the names to the newsroom in the first place; why the newsroom took them seriously; how could no one, as KTVU claims, have said these names out loud.

KTVU has already tried - and failed - to get the myriad of news clips of the erroneous broadcast removed from YouTube. Maybe it's time for KTVU to try a different strategy and explain, once and for all, how this happened.
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