Today’s Meek Apology Comes to You Courtesy of NBC

As Washington Post blogger Erik Wemple wrote late yesterday, "apologies are hard." This was the case for Coca-Cola a few days ago as it shifted blame to an ad agency for a guerrilla graffiti campaign in New Orleans that broke city ordinances, and it's the case now for NBC, which offered a sketchy apology for a misleading edit of George Zimmerman's 911 call the night he shot and killed Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.

The edited audio, broadcast on NBC's Today, leaves a clear impression that Zimmerman was racially profiling Martin, whereas in the complete recording, he is responding to a direct question from the police dispatcher.

Here is NBC's apology, which Wemple published late yesterday: "During our investigation it became evident that there was an error made in the production process that we deeply regret. We will be taking the necessary steps to prevent this from happening in the future and apologize to our viewers."

The unanswered question is whether this was a case of thoughtless audio editing or a case of an editorial decision being made to hammer home the point of view that Zimmerman was suspicious of Martin mostly because he was black. That's not a question that NBC is likely to answer anytime soon, but referring to the misleading edit as an "error" is a clear attempt at sidestepping responsibility, and doesn't do anybody any favors—especially NBC.

Calling it an error is similar to the all-too-common non-apology used when a high-profile individual says something particularly hurtful or ugly about a person or a segment of the population: "I apologize if my comments offended anybody in any way."

Here's the real message behind NBC's apology: "We're sorry we got caught up in this mess."

Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI

Comments Off


About Steve Goldstein

Steve Goldstein is editorial director of events for Access Intelligence’s PR News brand, which encompasses premium, how-to content, data and competitive intelligence for public relations professionals; PR News Online; PR News conferences, webinars and awards programs; and PR News guidebooks. Previously at AI Steve was editorial director of min, min ’s b2b and minonline as well as managing editor of CableFAX: The Magazine and CableWorld. Before joining Access Intelligence, he was executive editor of World Screen News, and editor of Film/Tape World, which covered film, television and commercial production in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Deals of the Week

Get $150 Off PR News' Big 4 Conference

Join PR News at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco on August 6 for the Big 4 Conference, where expert communicators will share in-depth case studies from their Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram strategies.

Use code “150” at checkout to save $150 on the regular rate.

Get $50 off PR News' Social Media Guidebook


This 11-chapter guidebook focuses on communicating in a mobile and social world, winning the attention of audiences, social media listening strategy and technology, social media measurement and so much more.

Use code “50off” at checkout.

Save $100 on a PR News Subscription



Let PR News become your weekly, go-to resource for the latest PR trends, case studies and tip sheets. Topics covered include visual storytelling, social media, measurement, crisis management and media relations.

Use code “SUBDEAL” at checkout.

Comments are closed.