A Baltimore TV station’s incendiary ‘error’

A television station in Baltimore edited video of protesters calling for the jailing of “killer cops” to make it sound like they were chanting “kill a cop.” I find it horrifying that anyone this side of the white supremacist movement would do something so irresponsible at a time when relations between the police and communities of color are already fraught.

David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun reports that WBFF, a Sinclair-owned Fox affiliate, has called the incident “an error” and posted an apology on its website (which I can’t find on  the station’s home page or its news page this morning). Some error. In fact, the protesters were chanting, “We won’t stop. We can’t stop ’til killer cops are in cell blocks.” The footage was recorded at a protest in Washington on Sunday and was carried by C-SPAN.

If this really was an error, it’s a matter of someone making some pretty ugly assumptions about the protesters. The fact that the line “are in cell blocks” was edited out raises serious questions about whether this was truly an error. Mediaite has posted the original WBFF video. You should take a look.

Is this the media fail of the year? I think so. Bad as Rolling Stone’s false story about a sexual assault at UVA was, WBFF’s ignorant stunt could incite violence. Broadcast stations such as WBFF are licensed and regulated by the FCC. I am not a fan of letting the government poke into matters involving the First Amendment. But in this case I’d say a hearing is in order. We need to know how this happened.

6 thoughts on “A Baltimore TV station’s incendiary ‘error’

  1. Larz Neilson

    Do you know if anyone is keeping “rap sheets” on news media? I recognize that it could turn into a monstrous undertaking, but when a station pulls a boner like that, it would be helpful to know if it is part of a pattern or just a one-time blunder.

  2. Aaron Read

    Larz, there are dozens of “media watch” orgs out there watching and listening to every single major media outlet. Problem is, all of them have agendas, and most of them are right-wing conservative outlets. So you can’t really use them in any sort of constructive manner.

  3. Aaron Read

    Oh look at that. WBFF’s last FCC license renewal from 2012 is still stuck at the “accepted for filing” stage.

    http://licensing.fcc.gov/cgi-bin/ws.exe/prod/cdbs/pubacc/prod/app_det.pl?Application_id=1499393

    That means the FCC acknowledges that you have filed your paperwork, but hasn’t acted on it in any way yet. And THAT means a bunch of complaints from viewers* could have some real bite to it. Probably not the “death penalty” (license renewal denied) since that requires a long term pattern of abuse to be demonstrated, and this is just one monstrous example. But it could very well lead to some pretty nasty fines.

    To file a complaint, go here:
    http://transition.fcc.gov/eb/oip/Compl.html

    * Note that the FCC usually does not give much (or any) weight to complaints unless they are from viewers/listeners “with standing”. Meaning they live inside the TV station’s broadcast service contour, or in a community served by a cable operator that carries the TV station’s content.

  4. kathryn jackson

    Dan,

    Talking Points Memo has a the extended interview that Fox Baltimore had with the protester, Tawanda Jones. The interviewer repeatedly “apologizes” for the error but thankfully, Ms. Jones calls them out for their dangerous stupidity. Her entire interview (according to Fox Baltimore) is at the link below. It’s worth watching in its entirety.

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/fox-affiliate-apologizes-protester-chant

    CLIP:
    “The interesting part that really gets to me is, where you guys edited it and stopped — like, how could that be a mistake?” she said.

    “Once you play that whole thing, you would know that’s not something that’s being said,” she added.

    “How could that be a mistake?” Exactly. It was NOT a mistake. Not even a Fox affiliate could be that stupid – especially in this climate. Melinda Roeder, the Fox reporter from the bogus edited report, has been in trouble before for another bogus story on alleged illegal activities (rape, drugs) at an Occupy Wall Street protest in 2011. http://www.citypaper.com/blogs/the-news-hole/bcp-fox-45-apologizes-for-their-segment-with-tawanda-jones-but-they-failed-to-really-own-up-to-what-they-20141222,0,4018221.story

    Beyond fail. Possibly malice?

  5. Arist Frangules

    I’m probably being pessimistic, but any bets on whether columnists and radio talk show hosts will be ranting and raving at demonstrators over the initial “kill a cop” story, even if they are aware of the retraction and apology? And that they won’t retract their rants if the apology is pointed out to them? And that the excuse, if they bother offering one, will be that “we know what we heard” and the apology was simply a case of Fox Baltimore cowing before “political correct” news media and activists?

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