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Exclusive: KTVU producer who oversaw newscast gaffe identified (Update: Nope, says producer)

[Update: KTVU producer Brad Belstock was one of three people reportedly terminated from his employment at KTVU, according to San Francisco media blogger Rich Lieberman. In an email conversation with The Desk on Wednesday, Belstock denied he was working on the noon newscast in which the four pilots were misidentified.]

Brad Belstock, a seven-year employee with Oakland-based FOX affiliate KTVU-TV, was supervising the station’s noon broadcast in which a newsreader misidentified the names of four pilots aboard Asiana Airlines Flight 214, two sources have told The Desk.

Belstock, who normally works on the station’s evening news broadcasts, was working the noon newscast on July 12 when newsreader Tori Campbell misidentified the pilots aboard Flight 214 as Captain Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Lee Fuk and Bang Ding Ow.

Belstock instantly knew something was wrong.

“Oh sh*t,” Belstock tweeted on a now-defunct account minutes after the gaffe occurred.

“What?” asked a colleague at a competing television station.

“I want it to be 6 PM,” Belstock responded.

KTVU News producer Brad Belstock (LinkedIn)
KTVU News producer Brad Belstock (LinkedIn)

Forty minutes later, Campbell issued an on-air retraction, claiming that an official with the National Transportation Safety Board had confirmed the names (the NTSB would later say the “official” was a summer intern). Another half hour later, the gaffe was uploaded to YouTube, going viral in a matter of minutes.

When the error went viral, so did Belstock’s tweets. First noted by @matthewkeyslive, Belstock’s account was used in stories by the Daily Mail, Radar Online and several other news organizations covering the error.

Belstock attempted to tweet other news stories being covered by KTVU before he scrubbed his account entirely. It is not clear if the decision to delete the account was his or if it was ordered by the station.

Though Belstock’s reaction has been synonymous with the station’s gaffe, it was not initially known if he was supervising the newscast. On Thursday, two sources — one who works for the station and another who covered the gaffe for a Gannett station operating outside of California — confirmed that Belstock was supervising the noon broadcast where the error was made.

The source at the station also confirmed that Belstock is being investigated in connection with the blunder. Though Belstock was supervising the noon newscast, there’s no indication that he was aware of the erroneous names before they went to air: San Francisco media journalist Rich Lieberman indicated the names were likely a last-minute addition to KTVU’s noon newscast, being “rushed to air, with only a cursory review of the facts.”

KTVU’s management have not returned emails from The Desk seeking comment. A message sent to Belstock’s KTVU email address on Friday was returned as undeliverable.


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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).