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Trayvon Martin case: NBC explains edited 911 call

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Trayvon Martin Protest
Julie Fletcher/AP

Last week, NBC News formally apologized for airing an edited recording of the 911 call George Zimmerman made before shooting Trayvon Martin — but did not reveal why the call had been revised. Yesterday, NBC News President Steve Capus gave Reuters a more detailed explanation, clarifying that airing the edited recording was “a mistake” rather than “a deliberate act to misrepresent the phone call.”

NBC’s Today show aired a version of the call that suggested Zimmerman told police, without being prompted, that Martin was black. The unedited recording reveals that Zimmerman gave this information while answering a dispatcher’s question.

Capus confirmed that a single producer was responsible for editing the call. Though various other NBC News staffers — including script editors and senior broadcast producers — heard the recording, they were not aware that it had been deceptively edited. NBC’s internal investigation of the matter concluded that the producer who erred had simply edited the call for length — the misleading nature of that edit was inadvertent.

Sources told Reuters that the producer in question was fired on April 5; other outlets have reported this news as well. Capus did not describe the network’s disciplinary actions, though he did confirm that “several people” involved had been disciplined.

In order to prevent future incidents of this nature, Capus says NBC News’s broadcast standards department is working to formalize the network’s editorial safeguards. The department is holding meetings with various NBC News shows and specialized units. Capus, too, will reinforce what the network learned in its internal investigation through meetings with NBC executives.

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