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Exclusive: Aviation expert gave fake Asiana names to KTVU

A usually-reliable aviation expert provided San Francisco FOX affiliate KTVU-TV with four erroneous names thought to have belonged to pilots aboard an aircraft that crashed at a local airport.

A KTVU employee told The Desk early Thursday morning that the names — Captain Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Lee Fuk and Bang Ding Ow — were emailed to KTVU by a local aviation expert who has provided the station with reliable information in the past.

The source, who acknowledged working on the broadcast that contained the false report, did not want to be identified due to an ongoing investigation at the station over the origin of the names. The source also did not identify who that aviation expert was.

The four names were reported during KTVU’s noon broadcast on July 12. The station retracted the report later in the broadcast, adding that the identities of the pilots had been confirmed with an “official” at the National Transportation Safety Board. That official was a summer intern, the NTSB later said.

Despite the retraction, the gaffe went viral after it was posted to the video sharing website YouTube, prompting station officials to issue (and re-issue) multiple apologies that day on-air and online.

Since then, KTVU’s parent company Cox Media Group has conducted a stringent internal investigation into the gaffe. The investigation resulted in the termination of three employees on Wednesday.

On Saturday, The Desk reported that KTVU had started filing copyright infringement notices with YouTube ordering the removal of videos that depict the gaffe. KTVU also sought to remove Campbell’s on-air retraction of the story. KTVU general manager Tom Raponi confirmed on Monday that the station was seeking to scrub the gaffe from YouTube.

Two videos uploaded to a YouTube account for use on The Desk were among those removed. Those videos also appeared on the websites of the Huffington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Radar and other media organizations. The videos were restored after The Desk filed a counterclaim with YouTube citing fair use.

The Desk has tried on several occasions to reach station management for comment. Those messages have gone unreturned.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).