In March, a NBC producer decided to edit the 911 call placed by George Zimmerman before he shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida. By editing the audio, the producer made it appear that Zimmerman volunteered the information that Martin was black with no prompting. The full recording reveals that the 911 dispatcher asked Zimmerman if the person who had raised his suspicion was black, white or Hispanic. Zimmerman responded, "He looks black." By editing the 911 call, the news producer drastically changed the context of the information.
When I first read the story about the editing that had been conducted on the 911 call, I was appalled. This was a huge mistake that should never have happened. By releasing this edited version, NBC changed the truth and provided the public with misleading information. I'm glad the network terminated the producer who made the decision to edit the audio, but I believe more could have been done to hold the individual and the network accountable.
I know that if I were to commit this type of mistake and give our readers this type of misleading information, I would be held accountable by my employers, my family, my friends, my neighbors and my community. By allowing the producer who edited the Zimmerman 911 call to remain anonymous, NBC is protecting the individual from answering to the public. In this case, due to the public outcry surrounding the death of Martin, the case could be made that anonymity was warranted. But, for the most part, I believe journalists should be forced to answer for these types of mistakes.
Oxford American Dictionaries define a journalist as "a person who writes for newspapers or magazines or prepares news to be broadcast on radio or television." I believe a journalist is also someone who puts their personal opinions and thoughts aside to offer readers, listeners or viewers unbiased, truthful information. We reserve our opinions for the commentary page. The articles printed on every other page of the Cassville Democrat are unbiased, based on facts and written to provide readers with the important information they need to form their own opinions.
We will continue to work to offer our readers accurate, objective news coverage each week, and I would encourage our readers to continue to hold us accountable when we do make mistakes. We publish corrections, but more importantly, we learn from our mistakes in order to improve our coverage in the future.