KTVU-TV apologizes after incorrectly naming Asiana pilots, NTSB admits to wrongdoing

KTVU-TV in San Francisco issued an apology after incorrectly naming the pilots of Asiana Flight 214. During the noon newscast, anchor Tori Campbell read the offensive names, which you can see in this video:

KTVU said it had confirmed the names with the NTSB and indicated the error was part of a hoax:

Later Friday night, the National Transportation Safety Board published an apology, saying it mistakenly confirmed the names:

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 crewmembers 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.

This information came as a surprise; earlier in the afternoon, SFWeekly had reported:

Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the NTSB, just confirmed to SF Weekly that the NTSB did not release the names of the pilots of flight 214 to KTVU, or any news organization, for that matter.

Knudson reportedly told Gawker the same thing.

As the news unfolded, there was understandable concern about the offensive nature of the error. The Asian American Journalists Association released a statement saying "words cannot adequately express the outrage" the organization feels.

KTVU said on Facebook it feels "terrible" and accepts "full responsibility" for the incident even though the NTSB had confirmed the names. The station updated its apology note as it learned more information Friday night and explained what happened:

First, 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 names, we never asked that person to give us their position with the agency.

We heard this person verify the information without questioning who they were and then rushed the names on our noon newscast.

KTVU did a good job correcting the error on all platforms -- online, on air and on social media. Here's the on-air apology:

It's still not entirely clear how the station initially received the misinformation. SFGate's Jeff Elder said NTSB spokeswoman Kelly Nantel told him the names "originated at the media outlet and the intern was "acting in good faith and trying to be helpful."

Editor's note: This post was modified Friday night to reflect updated information, namely the release of NTSB's statement. We also decided to remove the offensive names and instead link to the video where they appear.

  • Mallary Jean Tenore

    As managing editor of The Poynter Institute’s website, Poynter.org, I report on the media news industry, edit the site’s How To section, and moderate the site's live chats. I also help handle the site's social media efforts, and teach social media sessions on the side.


Related News

Email IconGroup 3Facebook IconLinkedIn IconsearchGroupTwitter IconGroup 2YouTube Icon