Report: NBC 6 Miami Producer Fired Over Zimmerman Misquote

Update: NBC 6 Miami acknowledges its mistake for its March 19 report and story with the misleading edit of George Zimmerman's call to police. Apparently, the Today show's erroneous and prejudicial edits were separately done and unrelated. NBC 6 Miami does not address why it waited until April 9 to correct the articles, or why another of its reporters whose byline appeared on one of the stories using the false quote repeatedly maintained on Twitter on April 10 that the producer responsible was not on their team, but from New York (see tweets below.)

The Miami Herald confirms it was Jeff Burnside who was fired, and has his reaction. The Herald credits but does not name the conservative bloggers who outed NBC 6 Miami's March 19 mangling of Zimmerman's quote. They are, as I said in my April 9 post on the topic, Les Jones and Tom McGuire. [More...]

Original Post 4:00 pm 4/25

Various sources are reporting that NBC 6 Miami reporter/producer Jeff Burnside has been fired over the racially-charged misquoting of George Zimmerman's 911 call to Sanford Police.

An NBC network producer who we’re told only took the edited tape from WTVJ, without checking it (I’m told it’s not unusual since it comes from an affiliate) and could not have known about the edit was also fired in this incident.

On April 9, building on work by Les Jones and Tom McGuire, I followed the evolution of the misquote of George Zimmeran's call on NBC 6 Miami and discovered two, not one, Today Show airings. My post included all the relevant screengrabs from the originally published and updated versions of three articles with the misquote appearing on the station's website, and the two Today Show airings.

The first article with the bad edit was by Christina Hernandez, Jeff Burnside and Edward B. Colby on March 19. Christina Hernandez is also the author of the article I found that was published later that night (screengrab with quote here), while Jeff Burnside is the author of the March 20 article. The Today show segments aired March 22 and March 27.

....So the blatant, racially charged distortion of George Zimmerman's 911 call started on NBC 6 Miami on March 19, appearing in two articles by three different writers. It was repeated on March 20 in an article attributed to one of the three writers. The articles have been updated, but the quotes remain. The falsely portrayed quote aired on the Today Show on March 22 during a live segment with reporter Lilia Luciano, and again on March 27 with reporter Ron Allen.

Now I'm wondering, why was Burnside fired and not Christina Hernandez? And why was Christina Hernandez so insistent on April 10 that the edited version was fed to them by NBC New York?

Hernandez's tweeted all morning on April 10, 2012, saying the edit was by a producer in New York and fed to the affiliate. The tweets have since been deleted, but I saved them at the time, adding date stamps for those that only reflected the time and not the date.


But the SLTV report says Burnside made the edit and fed it to New York. Mediaite quotes an undated live report by Burnside that included the quote, saying it preceded the second Today Show airing. (It doesn't say if it preceded the first Today Show misquote.)

My discovery on April 9 that the Today Show had previously aired the misquote in a segment on March 22 featuring a live report from Sanford by NBC reporter Lilia Luciano, came from a simple LexisNexis search, but Luciano had also tweeted about the segment here.)

It's possible Luciano got the quote from Burnside's March 19 report. But we still don't know that for sure, since Hernandez insisted she and Burnside got it from the network in New York, and as far as we know, she hasn't been fired. If NBC thought that was wasn't true, wouldn't they have fired her?

Poynter attempted to confirm with NBC 6 Miami that Burnside was fired.

A phone call to WTVJ’s newsdesk was immediately patched through to a spokesman from the NBC-owned stations who said only, “As a result of our investigation an employee involved in editing the tape is no longer at the station.”

It didn't confirm Burnside was the one fired. Earlier this morning, Burnside's bio was still up on the station's website. It seems to be gone now, while Hernandez' is still up. And Hernandez' tweets saying the editing was done by New York have been deleted. (I'm glad I saved them.)

Reuters reported on April 8:

Two sources at the network told Reuters the Miami-based producer of the segment had been fired on Thursday.

Why was Hernandez still saying on April 10 that she and Burnside got the edited version from New York?

NBC announced it would conduct an internal investigation on March 31. I began chronicling the media misreporting on the case on April 2. By April 3, NBC had issued a mea culpa.

Edward B. Colby was also on one of the three earliest NBC 6 Miami articles with the misquote. I wrote on April 9 it was unclear if he was an employee of NBC or a free-lancer, but as of that date, there were 155 articles attributed to him on NBC 6 Miami's website. I just checked again, and he co-wrote an article on April 23 (scroll to the bottom for original publication date) so his articles are still being published by the station, although he has no bio page.

So who was the producer NBC announced had been fired on April 5? And was he fired for feeding the video to Burnside, or did Burnside or Hernandez give it to him?

Here is Jeff Burnside's Facebook page, which as of right now, still lists him as being with NBC 6 Miami. (Added: His personal page has now been changed to show he was formerly with NBC-6 Miami.)

Poynter has corrected its earlier article today and reports that the edited version of the call that aired on WTVJ (Miami 6) is not the same one that aired on the Today Show. The Today Show clip was made by an NBC producer of its Southeastern Bureau.

Correction: This post originally stated that the WTVJ edited video aired on the "Today" show. It did not. The edited video that aired on "Today" originated at NBC's Southeastern headquarters.

So there two versions of the tape with the misleading edit of the quote, one by a producer, allegedly Burnside, at the local station and one that aired twice on the Today Show, allegedly by a producer at NBC's Southeastern Bureau. Did the NBC Southeastern producer get Burnside's version, redo it, and send it to the Today show? Or did Burnside get it from the producer at the Southeastern Bureau and redo it? And why does Hernandez insist it came from a producer in New York?

This story gets murkier every time its retold.

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  • Display: Sort:
    No, it's right (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by gyrfalcon on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 06:03:23 PM EST
    The NBC apology was a written statement.  Lentinel is talking about an on-air apology, the absence of which on the Today show was extensively reported by David Carr of the NYTimes several days ago.

    I don't know if they've done an on-air apology/correction on the Today show since then, but NBC's comments to Carr sure make it sound like they don't intend to, since it's now "old news."

    The apology you quote is in the original piece you linked to at The Hollywood Reporter, which says the statement was emailed to them.

    On Air vs Print (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 06:08:49 PM EST
    Ok, got it. I'll fix my comment to show it was an apology to viewers in writing not given over the air.

    No, please stay on topic (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 06:06:50 PM EST
    You can discuss that in an open thread, but this post is about NBC

    Jeralyn (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by kmblue on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 06:05:09 AM EST
    Someone fed someone the edited tape.  Despite your exhaustive research (and I mean that) I don't believe we know who actually edited that tape, and who approved its first airing.  

    It's not that hard to find out.  But NBC and its affiliates are in full cover your ass mode, and the person or persons actually responsible are not known. I bet they haven't been fired either.

    According to (none / 0) (#1)
    by lentinel on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 05:18:52 PM EST
    an article in yesterday's NYTimes, NBC has yet to make an on-air apology or explanation for what it did.

    they issued a written apology (none / 0) (#11)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 06:10:21 PM EST
    NBC officially apologized on April 2 or 3. I reported it here. NBC's statement said:

    During our investigation it became evident that there was an error made in the production process that we deeply regret. We will be taking the necessary steps to prevent this from happening in the future and apologize to our viewers.

    But it was a written statement of apology and not on air.


    That was (none / 0) (#14)
    by lentinel on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 06:58:49 PM EST
    was the point of the article in the Times.

    They issued a written apology, but they have said nothing on air -which is where their audience is.


    Burnside's Facebook page (none / 0) (#3)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 05:36:55 PM EST
    lists his NBC employment in the past tense.

    still showing as NBC (none / 0) (#12)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 06:16:00 PM EST
    current on this FB page. Maybe he has more than one page. Also, his twitter page still says he's an NBC Miami reporter. I'm sure they will all change soon if he's been fired and I have no reason to doubt that he has, I just haven't seen official confirmation.

    Jeff Burnside Worked at NBCUniversal (none / 0) (#13)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 06:44:13 PM EST
    Jeff Burnside
    Worked at NBCUniversal (Television News Reporter)Studied Broadcast Journalism at Washington State UniversityLives in Sunny Isles, FloridaFrom Seattle, Washington

        Television News Reporter · 1999 to 2012 · Miami, Florida
        Investigative reporting, special projects, environmental journalism for WTVJ in Miami.

    A Miami-based producer was fired for that gaffe, which conservative pundits saw as a deliberate distortion to help keep the Zimmerman-is-a-racist narrative alive.

    But conservative bloggers were able to show that the mistake did not begin with the Today show. NBC6 had made the same edits three times in the days prior to the Today show.

    Conservative bloggers?! J, you get no respect!

    No, they found the (none / 0) (#7)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 06:03:14 PM EST
    first two articles on the website, I found the third article and the original Today Show airing. I quoted them in my post as leading me to what I found. They later credited me with the Today Show find. My post included:

    But the Today Show is only half the story. Via Tom McGuire and Les Jones, news articles on <span class="caps">NBC</span> 6 Miami's website ran the same misleading, prejudicial edit in two articles days before either episode of  Today Show aired, on March 19  and March 20.

    It's all good.


    Of course (none / 0) (#15)
    by kmblue on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 05:57:03 AM EST
    it was a producer that got fired.  Not the news director.