NBC News Criticized for Selective Edit of Trayvon Martin 911 Call, NBC Apologizes

iMediaEthics publishes international media ethics news stories and investigations into journalism ethics lapses.


Home » Editing»

(Credit: Reuters, screenshot, highlight added)

NBC News announced it will look into “the editorial process” that led to a selectively edited 911 phone call made by George Zimmerman ending up on the air, Media Bistro’s TV Newser reported.

NBC’s Today Show aired March 27 a segment of the tape in which Zimmerman says: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”

But, in full, the tape features an exchange between Zimmerman and the 911 dispatcher. In that exchange, TV Newser reported the conversation went:

  • Zimmerman: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.”
  • 911 Dispatcher: “OK, and this guy — is he white, black, or Hispanic?”
  • Zimmerman: “He looks black.”

According to TV Newser, the editing was detected by Media Research Center.  Media Research Center is a conservative media watchdog.

As Washington Post’s Erik Wemple explained, the selectively edited version “would more readily paint Zimmerman as a racial profiler” offering up the racial identification, when Zimmerman was “simply” responding to the 911 dispatcher’s request for information.

Wemple called the editing “high editorial malpractice” because “much of the public discussion” on the Martin shooting focuses on circumstances of the shooting, and the edited tape alters the facts of that 911 call.

NBC’s full statement about the investigation, as reported by the Washington Post’s Wemple is: “We have launched an internal investigation into the editorial process surrounding this particular story.”

On April 3, NBC issued an apology for the edit, according to Reuters. NBC spokesperson Lauren Kapp told Reuters about the editing that “there was an error made in the production process that we deeply regret.”

In a follow-up post, the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple called out the network for failing to apologize “directly to George Zimmerman” and for failing to provide “details on just how the mistake unfolded.”

Media Research Center’s Newsbusters published a March 30 story reporting that MSNBC also edited the transcript of the 911 call.  But, according to Newsbusters, MSNBC “after being criticized” fixed the transcript to accurately reflect the verbatim content. However, Newsbusters wrote that MSNBC didn’t publish “a retraction, correction notice, or an apology for doing so.”

Submit a tip / Report a problem

NBC News Criticized for Selective Edit of Trayvon Martin 911 Call, NBC Apologizes

Share this article:

Comments Terms and Conditions

  • We reserve the right to edit/delete comments which harass, libel, use coarse language and profanity.
  • We moderate comments especially when there is conflict or negativity among commenters.
  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *