There But For the Grace of God…

You’ve probably heard about the San Francisco news anchor who read fake, racially insulting names of pilots flying the Asiana flight that recently crashed in San Francisco.  Now, according to the Associated Press, the airlines will sue the television station for its gaffe.  The offending news segment has gone viral and been the subject of intense criticism.  The station has apologized as has the NTSB for the apparent role of one of its interns in confirming the names.

It’s not hard to imagine the scenario by which this prank might have gotten past the weekend news crew, up and down the line.  Say you get information that sounds reasonable, you check it out with a government agency; in the rush to get the information on the air, the producer whispers to the anchor via an earpiece all anchors wear, “We have the names of the pilots.  Read them off the screen.”   Say the anchor doesn’t have time to sound out the names phonetically, so she does as she’s told.

I like to think that here on Chicago Tonight that would never happen (for starters we typically present analysis, not breaking news).   And I always sound out a difficult name before reading it on the air — and confirm the pronunciation with others.  But I can see how, at a commercial station, in the rush to advance a big story with new information, something like this could happen.  I can’t imagine how that anchor in San Francisco feels–she must be humiliated and devastated.  Who wouldn’t be?

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