It is quite possible that Ron Burgundy is the smartest guy in the news reporting business. Burgundy, the trendy yet intellectually bereft 1970’s anchorman played by Will Ferrell in the movie “Anchorman”, has nothing on the cast of characters that generated the most ridiculous story of the year last week.

First, we have the reporter, writer, producer, editor and anchor of Oakland TV station KTVU, none of whom were apparently bright enough to recognize a racially insensitive prank when they saw it.

Then we have the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Intern who either was in on the joke or is studying to be a future television journalist.

Finally, we have an Asian based airline that threatens a lawsuit because it believed the TV stations carelessness sullied its reputation.

As if having your experienced flight crew completely miss a runway and crumple a multi-million dollar jumbo jet in the dirt didn’t do that already.

In case you have been in a coma the last week, I refer to the incident where the Oakland TV station broadcast the names of the 4 pilots who were on the doomed Asiana flight that crashed in San Francisco two weeks ago. The problem? The names were bogus, and the station had been “punked”. The names they reported:

  • Sum Ting Wong
  • Wi Tu Lo
  • Ho Lee Fuk
  • Bang Ding Ow

Just for fun, read those names as a couple of sentences. “Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo. Ho Lee Fuk! 

Bang Ding Ow…. 

Don’t take my word for it. Watch the actual report below.

Thank God the anchorwoman pronounced the third name “fook”. 

Now, not only did a reporter have to “learn” the names of the four, likely a producer had to sign off on it, and an editor reviewed the copy. A graphics person had to create the Chryon graphics containing the names. Someone else had to key it into the TelePrompTer, and then an anchor had to read it live. 

None of those people could see the joke? And you wonder why I am critical of modern journalism.

The station did issue a retraction within 15 minutes of airing the names, most likely to stem the calls of either outraged viewers, or those laughing so hard they could barely breathe. It tried to defend itself by saying they had verified the names with the NTSB. It turns out that was true, and the NTSB had to issue a statement blaming the confirmation on a “summer intern” who had no knowledge of the pilot names and had no business confirming anything.

The intern has been fired. It is worth noting all these other morons still inexplicably have their jobs.

Finally, Asiana Airlines initially threatened to sue the station for damaging its reputation. I guess they didn’t have enough to do dealing with 3 dead and 190 injured passengers. After careful consideration, they withdrew that threat, saying they wished to direct their energies to dealing with 3 dead and 190 injured passengers. Not to mention the ongoing investigation by the now intern-less NTSB. 

I realize these joke names were racially insensitive, and that some people were highly offended by them. I understand that, but I still can’t stop laughing every time I think about it. It’s not really that I am laughing at the names; it is more that I am laughing because so many people were stupid enough to let them get by. I mean, how ridiculous is this entire situation? 

Of course, with so many people involved, this could also be a scathing indictment of our public education system.

Nevertheless, rest assured. The NTSB intern has been fired. Your tax dollars, as well as your trust in mainstream media activities, are safe and well protected. Go about your business. There is nothing (extraordinarily stupid) to see here. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *