Media malpractice alert: ABC and NBC backtrack on Zimmerman stories


Coverage of media coverage of the Trayvon Martin shooting has now fully separated from the actual events of February 26, 2012, and become a separate story in its own right, as have political attempts to manipulate perceptions of the case.  Two important updates on the media front:

First, NBC News has launched an “internal investigation” of how a heavily edited version of the audio from George Zimmerman’s 911 call on the March 27 broadcast of the “Today” show.  The same “mistake” was made in a written transcript published at

It should be a fairly short “internal investigation,” because the brass just needs to figure out who decided to edit the following conversation between Zimmerman and the dispatcher:

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.

DISPATCHER: Okay, is this guy, is he white, black, or Hispanic?

ZIMMERMAN: He looks black.

… into this: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good… he looks black.”  As deceptive edits go, it’s rather clumsy, isn’t it?  Not to mention grossly irresponsible, given the volatile situation surrounding the Sanford case.

Meanwhile, ABC News manufactured a “scoop” last week by releasing edited video from the Sanford Police Department, ostensibly “proving” that Zimmerman didn’t have any visible injuries.  Since Zimmerman claims to have been physically assaulted by Trayvon Martin, a lack of injuries would do some damage to his story.

But ABC not only failed to remind its readers that Zimmerman was treated by paramedics at the scene of Martin’s death – a well-established hard fact documented in police reports.  They also used an on-screen graphic to obscure Zimmerman’s head at a crucial moment in their “big scoop” video clip.  Without this graphic, viewers can see a rather large gash on the back of Zimmerman’s head, which is totally consistent with his story, and completely destroys the action line for ABC’s “reporting.”  The video loudly touted as showing no injuries did, in fact, depict what appears to be a significant injury.

Lo and behold, ABC News has now produced an “enhanced” version of the security camera video, and whaddya know – it’s another sizzling-hot blockbuster scoop, which just happens to completely erase the previous scoop, because after more “enhancement and re-digitization” than Disney deployed to create Tron:Legacy, it turns out ABC’s sharp-eyed analysts can see that scar too!

Thus, ABC News claims to have “revealed for the first time” what everyone who didn’t fall for their earlier “scoop” could easily see with their own eyes, by viewing the unedited security tape.  Maybe a sufficiently loud cry of “Whoops!” will make an internal investigation unnecessary.