More Fallout From Trayvon Martin 911 Tape: NBC Station Fires Emmy-Winning Correspondent

Apr 26, 2012  •  Post A Comment

In another repercussion from the televised airing of an edited 911 audio tape in the Trayvon Martin case, a correspondent at WTVJ-TV in Miami has been fired, the Miami Herald reports.

Jeff Burnside, a 13-year veteran with the station and the recipient of a number of regional Emmy Awards, was fired late last week and two other station employees were also disciplined, the paper confirmed. The actions followed the admission by the station that it had made the same edits to George Zimmerman’s 911 call that the network aired on the “Today” show — edits that were widely criticized as giving a false impression of the call.

Zimmerman has been charged in the death of Trayvon Martin in a shooting that took place shortly after the call. As previously reported, NBC has apologized for the broadcast, which gave the impression that Zimmerman was racially profiling Martin.

The paper reports: “The unedited version of the call showed that before Zimmerman mentioned Trayvon Martin’s race, the police operator asked him, ‘Is he black, white or Hispanic?’ Conservative blogs skewered the network’s March 22 and 27 blunders, calling them a deliberate misrepresentation aimed at keeping the Zimmerman-is-a-racist narrative alive.”

WTVJ reportedly posted a Web version of its story quoting the tape, with ellipses included to indicate something had been edited out. The report notes that the “Today” editing and the WTVJ edits were done separately.

WTVJ spokesman Matt Glassman told the newspaper, “After conducting an extensive investigation, we are putting a more stringent editorial process in place to ensure this does not happen again.”

The Herald report notes: “The Miami error underscores how time-crunched journalists’ work may go on the air without any supervision. The Miami piece aired without a manager reviewing it, a station source said.”

The report adds: “Burnside, 52, won several regional Emmy Awards and was known for his investigative reports and coverage of environmental issues. Named ‘Top TV Reporter’ by the New Times in 2007, he is on the board of directors of the Society of Environmental Journalists.”

Burnside declined to comment for the story other than to tell the paper: “This is obviously very, very complicated. I have nothing but good things to say about the NBC6 family.”

Earlier this month, NBC News fired an unnamed network producer who was responsible for editing the tape for the “Today” broadcast, as previously reported.

4 Comments

  1. I think all of the neighborhood watch and rent-a-cops should be carrying deadly force. And, while we’re at it, let’s hand out guns at the asylum. Let’s make this as interresting as possible.

  2. Named ‘Top TV Reporter’ by the New Times in 2007, he is on the board of directors of the Society of Environmental Journalists.”
    NOT ANYMORE!
    Let me guess, the “manager” “who did not supervise the piece” got to save their job because reporters usually do not HAVE to go through a chain of command in order for a story to air on the newscast, so they died by the “curve” so to speak.
    Yes, let’s give everyone guns, especially the “conservatives” who are always upset about homosexuality, the right to bare arms (and closed-minded attitudes) and tune in to Pat Robertson for all of the “news, sports and weather.”
    No, I am not a LIBERAL either. Just someone who is sick and tired of double standards and this story wreaks of it.

  3. Neither of the comments so far address the real heart of this story: Is it wrong for a journalist to decide what happened and then alter the tape to editorially amplify that conclusion? Yes. NBC did the wrong thing by not apologizing directly to its audience during a subsequent airing of the Today Show. WTVJ did the correct thing, although I think a two-week unpaid suspension would have sent the same message to other “change-the-world” journalists.

  4. The complete dismissal of multiple individuals seems excessive. Makes one wonder if that tactic is used primarily to protect the firms and/or the higher echelon employees in said firms. I worry about legitimacy of action vs. the negative impact on the lives of employees not truly responsible for the edits and/or editorial review process.

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