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KTVU editor nearly stopped erroneous Asiana report from airing

A veteran journalist with KTVU-TV nearly saved the station from embarrassment last month when she raised concern about the authenticity of four names purporting to belong to pilots aboard Asiana Airlines Flight 214.

KTVU managing editor Michelle Toy thought the four names given to the station purported to be the identities of pilots aboard Flight 214 were “suspicious,” but gave approval for the names to be read-on air after being told they had been confirmed by an official with the NTSB, San Francisco media journalist Rich Lieberman reported Tuesday.

News anchor Tori Campbell read the names — Captain Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Lee Fuk and Bang Ding Ow — four minutes into the July 12 broadcast. Later, Campbell acknowledged that the names were erroneous, adding that the station had checked with the NTSB and the names were confirmed by an official in Washington.

The station issued a full retraction and several apologies hours later after video of the segment went viral. Later, the NTSB acknowledged that a summer intern had “acted outside the scope of his authority” in confirming the names to KTVU.

The gaffe cost three station employees their jobs. Roland DeWolk and Christina Gastelu were terminated after an investigation by Cox Media Group revealed the two had a direct hand in the names being read on air. A third employee, producer Brad Belstock, was fired after the company claimed he violated the station’s social media policy by tweeting “Oh sh*t” after the gaffe aired.

Lieberman reported via a source that Toy, who is Asian, did not lose her job as managing editor because “KTVU didn’t want to offend the Asian community.” However, The Desk found a job listing published four days ago that shows the station is looking to hire a managing editor.

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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).