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Maybe KTVU Should Hire Forum Commenters to Vet Future Pilot Names

Maybe KTVU Should Hire Forum Commenters to Vet Future Pilot Names

Ever since California TV station KTVU erroneously aired the fake names of four pilots falsely purported to be those of Asiana Flight 214, the story has gone viral and left many wondering how the station could have possibly missed that the names were fake.

Some blogs and news outlets have reported that the NTSB was the source of the false names.  This is not exactly the case.  As KTVU explained in its apology for the error, it contacted the NTSB with the list of names, asking NTSB to verify the names and their spelling.

“On Friday, July 12, during the KTVU Channel 2 Noon newscast, we misidentified the pilots in the Asiana Airlines crash.

We made several mistakes when we received this information. First, we never read the names out loud, phonetically sounding them out.

Then, during our phone call to the NTSB where the person confirmed the spellings of the names, we never asked that person to give us their position with the agency.

We heard this person verify the information without questioning who they were and then rushed the names on our noon newscast.”

A cursory search of online postings however turns up at least a couple of forums (there are likely others) where those fake names were posted prior to 7/12, the date that KTVU read those names on-air.  It’s not known whether or not the TV station ever saw the names posted online anywhere, but the point is, it’s clear from the forum comments that the names were posted as a joke and that others immediately saw it as a joke.

One posting at the FAL Files forum dated 7/10 contains the same fake names.  It ends with “LOL,” indicating that it’s clearly a joke (for those who couldn’t tell from the names).  In viewing the full thread, others were discussing details of the crash in general.


Someone in a Jeep JK Owners forum also posted three out of the four fake names on 7/10.  It’s followed by other comments, like “LMAO,” that clearly indicate it’s recognized as a joke.

Days later, upon realizing that the station had actually read the same names on-air, a commenter in the Jeep owners forum posted the video of the broadcast on 7/12, the day the report aired, accompanied by the comment:

Well you were close. A news station got pranked and read these names out today on a live broadcast.

Another commenter quipped:

News channel: we need to check our sources, where did that come from.

Researcher: I got that from a reputable source for all things Jeep and Asiana flights.

KTVU has not said how it obtained the names, only in its apology that it had “received this information.”

Regardless of where or how KTVU got the names, the comments online at least as of 7/10 made it quite obvious that even forum commenters recognized the names were not at all serious.

Instead, now the TV station, as well as the NTSB intern who confirmed the names, have faced the fallout of the mistake.

Legal Insurrection reached out to KTVU for a statement.  As of this writing, no response had been received.


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Carol Herman | July 16, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Saturday Nite Live doesn’t come back for another season till October. But, wow, are their opportunities in the news for them to BAT OUT OF THE BALL PARK !

No Se He
Bit Oh Fuk
Nan Tuk Off
Se Est Her
Me No Ng

If the station confirmed the names via telephone with a summer intern at the NTSB they had to have said them out loud. Thus to claim “we never read the names out loud, phonetically sounding them out.” is false.

    rantbot in reply to JohnG. | July 16, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    Not so. If they were calling specifically to verify spelling, the person at NTSB would have given them a string of letters, almost certainly in Alpha-Bravo-Charlie format. It’s not at all clear that anyone on either end of the line would have had to take a guess at the phonetics.

    “Sierra uniform mike tango india november golf whiskey oscar november golf” isn’t obviously a joke, even though it’s pronounced Sum Ting Wong.

      JohnG in reply to rantbot. | July 16, 2013 at 3:16 pm

      Serious? Who, outside of the military, does that without saying the word before spelling it?

      Or, more likely, KTVY had their summer intern speak with the NTSB summer intern to get things confirmed before they went on the air.

        rantbot in reply to JohnG. | July 16, 2013 at 3:37 pm

        Who? Anybody who has anything to do with aviation.

        I was never in the military and haven’t flow a civvie plane in decades, but I always do it that way, particularly on the ‘phone.

      CalFed in reply to rantbot. | July 16, 2013 at 7:19 pm

      That seems unlikely. I am a pilot and I always pronounce the word first and then spell it with the phonetic alphabet.

      I don’t see anyone just starting in with a string of letters using the phonetic alphabet, without first attempting pronouncing the words.

      That being said, this always had the earmarks of a joke email that got sucked into the intake of the Legitimate News Maw.

        rantbot in reply to CalFed. | July 16, 2013 at 8:04 pm

        But they wouldn’t be calling to check the pronunciation, they’d be calling to check the spelling. They would reasonably expect whoever answers the phone to be able to read a name, not pronounce it.

          CalFed in reply to rantbot. | July 16, 2013 at 8:41 pm

          Sorry, rantbot, can’t agree with you on this one. Especially with long, multi-word names, it beggars belief that a person wouldn’t attempt a pronunciation before spelling the names phonetically.

    Crawford in reply to JohnG. | July 16, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    Telephone? What century do you think this is? They emailed, and got back the response, “Yeah, sure. Those are the right names. 8-o”

Me Rof Ng

we did a tail split on a sea wall but DON”T DARE GET OUR NAMES WRONG….
they tried to confirm with ntsb, the person at ntsb confirmed.
if they called the correct ntsb number (there are specific ones) then they made good faith effort to get it right.

LukeHandCool | July 16, 2013 at 2:57 pm

And don’t fry a plane, either! Or try to write a sign! Anyway, alcohol and gasoline don’t mix, so put that car down!

LukeHandCool (who can say this because his wife is Japanese … and she mocks and laughs at Luke’s spoken Japanese … mercilessly! She’s a racist!)

ConserveLiberty | July 16, 2013 at 2:58 pm

IMHO there is a (likely former) News Producer at KTVU who deeply regrets the lack of attention to detail. There is a (likely former) News Operations Producer (supervisory and management position) who deeply regrets poor supervision of a (likely former) Khyron Operator and news writer.

News readers are news readers. Tele-Prompt-R operators are just that. Sources are untrustworthy. Interns are, well, interns.

Producers are responsible for on-air content.

LukeHandCool | July 16, 2013 at 3:07 pm

“… the story has gone viral and left many wondering how the station could have possibly missed that the names were fake.”

The layers and layers and layers of fact checkers were all off that day.

Not to worry. Glen Kessler is back from vacation and has boldly, and without any reservation, rated KTVU’s pilot-names story 1-1/2 Pinocchios.

Asiana Airlines is initiating legal action against KTVU for displaying those obviously fake names. This is according to Asiana legal spokesman Wi Su Yu.

In the insane rush to get something, anything, on the air before their competitors do, and flash their news coup across the screen to glom audience to sell to advertisers. (And the remainder of the article would be scooped from whatever a competitor already said, as “background”).

Print major media does it too, when they are not just writing slop stories off of unvetted news releases.

This business-as-usual fu was obvious, but unfortunately most aren’t.

(Has anyone asked if there was even one human being in the United States watching that news story who cared what the pilots’ names were?)

Did they not watch Groove Tube?

Who am I kidding, no one has seen that movie.

Suk Muk Dik indeed!