KTVU-TV in the Bay Area can’t take all the blame for their terrible mistake of airing fake names of the Asiana Air pilots as “Ho Lee Fuk” and “Sum Ting Wong.” KTVU apparently called to confirm the list of four names with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). An intern at the agency confirmed the fake names.
After that confirmation the anchor read the names on the noon newscast on July 12, and minutes later apologized for the mistake. On Friday night, NTSB confirmed its mistake in a press release.
The National Transportation Safety Board apologizes for inaccurate and offensive names that were mistakenly confirmed as those of the pilots of Asiana flight 214, which crashed at San Francisco International Airport on July 6.
Earlier today, in response to an inquiry from a media outlet, a summer intern acted outside the scope of his authority when he erroneously confirmed the names of the flight crew on the aircraft.
The NTSB does not release or confirm the names of crew members or people involved in transportation accidents to the media. We work hard to ensure that only appropriate factual information regarding an investigation is released and deeply regret today’s incident.
Appropriate actions will be taken to ensure that such a serious error is not repeated. (More)
On Friday (July 12), KTVU apologized on its social media pages for the mistake, and so did the NTSB.
Then on the evening news, KTVU anchor Frank Somerville apologized to the viewers:
Tonight we want to take a moment to say we are sorry. Earlier today during our noon newscast we misidentified the pilots in the Asiana Airline crash. We made several mistakes when we received this information. First of all, we never read the names out loud, phonetically sounding them out.
Then during our phone call to the NTSB, where the person confirmed the spellings of the of the names, we never asked that person to give us their position within the agency. We heard this person verify the information without questioning who they were, and then we rushed their names on to our noon newscast.
The anchor goes on to read the statement released by the NTSB and then finishes the KTVU apology:
Now even with this serious statement from the NTSB, we want you to know here we accept full responsibility for this mistake. We issued an apology later in the noon newscast. We also apologized on our website, and on our social media sites. That fact is we have a lot of good people here at Channel 2 and on behalf of all of us, I want to tell you that we pride ourselves on getting it right, and having the highest of standards and integrity.
Clearly today that did not happen. We made a mistake. So again from all of us here at KTVU, we can only offer our sincerest apology in this case.
As journalists we can all learn from this horrible and embarrassing situation. For some reason, I don’t think we’ve heard the last about this issue.