At least three producers with the San Francisco news station KTVU-TV have been fired for the incident earlier this month where fake names of Asian Airlines pilots were read on air, according to reports.
First reported by radio host Rich Lieberman and confirmed by sources at the station by the San Francisco Chronicle, investigative producer Roland DeWolk, special projects producer Cristina Gastelu and producer Brad Belstock were fired in connection with the noon broadcast on July 12 where anchor Tori Campbell read the fake names.
Producer Elvin Sledge, who was also reportedly working for the noon broadcast during the incident, is said to be retiring as well. Sledge, according to Lieberman’s sources, had told management of his retirement plans weeks before the fake names incident.
On his blog, Lieberman wrote that three sources had confirmed the firings, all speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Lieberman did receive this statement from KTVU’s General Manager Tom Raponi, although it doesn’t quite address the firings directly:
“Consistent with our apology, we are carrying through with our responsibility to minimize the thoughtless repetition of the video by others.”
TheBlaze reached out to news director Lee Rosenthal for comment and did not receive a comment from him, but was contacted by Raponi who wrote in an email “it is KTVU’s policy to not comment on any personnel issues.”
Campbell reported on air earlier this month that KTVU had received the names — Capt. Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Lee Fuk and Bang Ding Ow — and confirmed them with the National Transportation Safety Board, but shortly after doing so, the gaffe was realized and apologized for. NTSB revealed an intern, who has since also been let go, overstepped his/her authority in erroneously confirming the names. KTVU issued a formal apology.
At one point, Asiana Airlines had threatened KTVU with a lawsuit citing the names, which some found offensive, as damaging its reputation. The airline later dropped the lawsuit saying it would be focusing on the investigation of the crash that took place as one of its planes failed to land properly at San Francisco International airport on July 6. Dozens were injured and three killed in association with the crash of Flight 214.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported an anonymous source from the station saying “people are definitely down about” the recent firings. Former KTVU political editor Randy Shandobil told the Chronicle this incident is just indicative of the pressure on the media to provide information as quickly as possible. He said he left more than two years ago because “people were working harder and harder and feeling less secure about what was hitting the air.”
“People are overtaxed and have more responsibility sometimes than they can handle. And sometimes, in situations like this, terrible mistakes happen that are bigger than one person. It’s systemic,” Shandobil told the Chronicle.
The Chronicle also reported a source telling them the fake names had been posted on the Internet for a couple days and reached the station in an email from a source who had previously provided KTVU with reliable information. On a similar note, TheBlaze last week too received a tip from a source who wished to remain anonymous claiming they in fact were the originator of the names. This source claimed to have sent a fax with the fake names as a joke to several sources. In vetting the information, we could not confirm the claim.
In case you missed it, here is a clip of KTVU’s report where the fake names were read (Content warning: some consider the names offensive):