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Both a San Francisco Bay Area TV station and the National Transportation Safety Board apologized for their roles in the broadcast Friday of fake, racially insensitive names of the pilots flying ill-fated Asiana Airlines Flight 214.
The segment that referred to the pilots by four false names, including “Capt. Sum Ting Wong” and “Wi Tu Lo,” has gone viral and drawn heavy criticism on the Internet.
Somerville did not say how exactly the station got the errant names, which were read aloud by an anchor.
Before the broadcast, “we never read the names out loud, phonetically sounding them out,” he said.
Late Friday, the NTSB acknowledged that a summer intern errantly confirmed the names to KTVU when a reporter from the station called about them.
“The NTSB does not release or confirm the names of crew members 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,” the statement added.
Somerville said the station didn’t properly verify who at the NTSB was confirming the names.
Two teenage girls from China were killed and more than 180 people were injured when the Boeing 777 clipped a sea wall and slammed into a runway July 6 at San Francisco International Airport. A third passenger, a girl, died of her wounds Friday.
On Sunday, Asiana Airlines identified the pilot and copilot as Lee Kang-kook and Lee Jung-min.
The KTVU newscast was captured in a video posted to YouTube, in which the station displayed the four incorrect pilot names on the screen and an anchor read them aloud.
“Nothing is more important to us than having the highest level of accuracy and integrity, and we are reviewing our procedures to ensure this type of error does not happen again,” Tom Raponi, KTVU/KICU vice president and general manager, said in a statement.
The hoax prompted outrage from some Asian American activists and a journalism organization.
“Words cannot adequately express the outrage we … feel over KTVU’s on-air blunder that made a mockery of the Asiana Airlines tragedy,” wrote Asian American Journalists Assn. President Paul Cheung and MediaWatch Chair Bobby Caina Calvan. “We are embarrassed for the anchor, who was as much a victim as KTVU’s viewers and KTVU’s hard-working staff.”
The two said KTVU should explain where the names originated.
In a letter to Raponi, retired KTVU reporter Lloyd LaCuesta, an Asian American Journalists Assn. member, said he was saddened by the airing of the prank names.
“Common sense indicates that simply sounding out the names would have raised red flags,” LaCuesta wrote in the letter.
LaCuesta credited KTVU and its parent company, Cox Media Group, for supporting workplace diversity and racial awareness, but added: “It does point out that we all need to work harder at the craft of journalism and educating ourselves to sensitivities.”