A San Francisco area TV station is getting an unwarranted free pass now that the National Transportation Safety Board has acknowledged that a summer intern “confirmed” the names of the pilots in charge of Asiana Flight 214, the one that crashed last week on a San Francisco runway.
Last night, the NTSB issued this news release:
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.
It’s a pity the TV station isn’t owning up to its role in the debacle because its role appears much more substantial than just a summer intern who didn’t want to appear to be uninformed.
The station — KTVU — said all the usual things after the incident, but declined to say anything more than that.
“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,” the station manager said.
What else is there? For one thing, the station could reveal how it got the names in the first place. Did someone in the newsroom just make them up? For another, it could explain why it went to the NTSB to get “confirmation,” when the NTSB isn’t the place to go for that sort of thing. The NTSB doesn’t much care about names and even when it finishes an investigation and releases a mountain of evidence, the names of pilots and crew aren’t part of the docket.
Why the TV station chose to go to a poor source for confirmation, the station isn’t saying.
It may well be that the newspeople in the TV station didn’t know the NTSB was a poor place to turn for confirmation, which highlights a growing problem in journalism: inexperienced people covering major stories without any real qualifications. It’s the predictable byproduct of the purge of the veteran journalist from many news organizations.
But perhaps the most troubling aspect of the debacle is that no one at the station noticed that Wong, Lo, Fuk, and Ow are not Korean names.
By the way, the pilot’s name is Lee Gang-guk, and the co-pilot was Lee Jeong-min. The Associated Press had reported the names four days before the San Francisco TV station’s big scoop. It did so the old-fashioned way: by calling the appropriate source — the airline — and asking.