Sunday, July 14, 2013

"System errors" plague the NTSB and a San Francisco TV station

By now you have probably heard about the San Francisco TV station that broadcast what it thought were the names of the four pilots of Asiana Flight 214 that crashed landed last week.

The names were not those of the pilots and were typical racist stereotypes.

If you haven't seen it, here's a 30 second clip that shows all you need to know.

The station, of course, apologized and said that it had confirmed the names with the National Transportation Safety Board, which promptly blamed a "summer intern" for the debacle. This is according to an NBC News/Reuters story, one of the very few that didn't repeat the names.

That story also points out that the real names of the two pilots at the controls had been released earlier in the week.

Is another case of system errors and not human errors? Let's see.

The NTSB said, "Appropriate actions will be taken to ensure that such a serious error is not repeated." The intern was supposed to have referred such questions to official NTSB media people.

The station's vice president and general manager said, "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 apparently clueless anchorwoman who read the names has said, "A serious mistake was made."

Here is what spokespeople for the Asian American Journalists Association had to offer, "We are embarrassed for the anchor, who was as much a victim as KTVU's viewers and KTVU's hard-working staff."

Wait a sec. The anchor and KTVU's hard-working staff were victims?

"We never read the names out loud, phonetically sounding them out," said a different KTVU anchor.

Another AAJA member wrote, "Common sense indicates that simply sounding out the names would have raised red flags,"

Sound out the names? They were so obviously fake that a high school kid would have noticed simply by silently reading them.

How could everyone at the TV station, the producers, editors, writers and the anchor who read the story on the air with a straight face, not have noticed that the names were not only not very plausible, but also exceedingly offensive?

Also unclear is how the station acquired the supposed names in the first place.

System errors? I don't think so.

Additional source: Los Angeles Times

Search "System Errors" on my blog to see 12 other posts on this topic.


Anonymous said...

Ron Burgundy lives.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Life imitates art.

SeaSpray said...

I would think that Barbara Walters didn't achieve the success she did by accepting any statement given to her by staff without proofreading before airing the information. What about personal responsibility?

Then again ..I know I tend to micromanage at times. Dot every I - Cross every T.

I wonder if it wasn't a joke gone bad?

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Yes, personal responsibility.

No doubt it was a joke gone bad. It will be interesting when the source is finally revealed. I'm guessing someone on the staff of the TV station made up the names as a joke. Then another person (hard to believe) thought it was fact and sent it up the chain of command.

Carolyn Thomas said...

It often amazes me how those who make their living simply reading out loud cannot seem to do even that.

After a well-known local writer died, I listened to the radio news guy horribly mangling the pronunciation of his name for three consecutive newscasts before I simply couldn't stand it anymore and contacted the station directly. The news guy's response: "Yes, I may have gotten his name wrong a few times..."

Isn't that their only job? To say things right?

Anonymous said...

It sounds like the station only "confirmed" the names with the NTSB intern, and the joke originated within the station.

The joke names were so obvious at a 5th grade level that they had to be injected immediately before the announcer. It has been the vogue for at least 10 years to blame systems, but sometimes you just have to fire people.

Anonymous said...

I think the first responder to posting link had it right: this is why we think they're idiots.


Skeptical Scalpel said...

Carolyn and the two anons, thank you for commenting.

Carolyn, great story.

I agree that a fifth grader would probably have known the names were fake. I overestimated the level at which that would have happened.

I agree that it is Ron Burgundy level anchoring.

Anonymous said...

This is a slightly different focus than your story, but there are many comparisons being done between surgery and airlines these days, especially the "checklist". Where does the pre flight check list fit in here? Im sure the crew realized the focal inexperience of the pilot and trainer, but would that have been caught in the checklist? Wasnt the pilot similar to a resident who is doing a new procedure?

Skeptical Scalpel said...

I hate those pilot-surgeon-airplane analogies and have blogged about them. Put "pilots" and "airplanes" in the search field in the upper right portion of my blog site.

I'm not sure that a checklist covers the scenario that brought down this plane. The inexperienced pilot (with this plane only so not exactly like a resident) was senior to the co-pilot who was supposedly training him. The flight engineer was senior to both pilots, but not a pilot himself. There was a third pilot in the cockpit whose seniority status I do not know.

For a fascinating look at this situation, go to this blog []. Be prepared to spend some time and read the comments too. Start with the initial post of July 11.

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.