Audit Notes: NBC’s Selective Edits, Bloomberg Clickbait, Secrecy

NBC News has apologized for editing tapes of George Zimmerman’s 911 call to make it look like he said Trayvon Martin looked up to no good because he was black. NBC snipped out the dispatcher asking Zimmerman what race Martin was. This is about as bad as selective editing gets.

So it’s not good enough that NBC News has apologized. Erik Wemple writes that it issued this statement:

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.

In a journalistic error of this magnitude on a story of this sensitivity, viewers need to know how something like this happened. Tell us exactly what happened. An apology doesn’t do much of anything for NBC’s credibility here. An explanation, whatever it reveals, would.

— Bloomberg News is rockin’ the Web like it’s 2007, with a clickbait (for Bloomberg, anyway) slideshow on the states with the highest and lowest taxes.

This is how not to present information. If you want to find out what Wyoming’s taxes are, you have to click through fifty-two different screens to get there. There’s no “last button.” There’s no table showing the highest and lowest-tax states. You can’t even manipulate the URL to skip ahead, at least in my browser. On the off chance you actually want to know Wyoming’s tax rates, I’ll save you the carpal tunnel with this link.

There’s no reason to design a page like this except to manipulate your readers into clicking many more times than they normally would. But that backfires if you tick them off and they quit coming to your site. This sample of commenters from the first page of comments show that I’m not alone:

At least the photos aren’t like the lame effort from cousin BusinessWeek a couple of years ago:

(That’s supposed to be Connecticut if you were wondering.)

— William D. Cohan writes for Bloomberg on how difficult it is to get information out of the SEC and the Federal Reserve:

To this day, the SEC has given me nothing — zilch, nada — about Bear Stearns or Goldman Sachs. After the Lazard book was published, the State Department sent me a thin file that was, supposedly, what it had in its possession about Felix Rohatyn’s three years as the U.S. ambassador to France. I opened the envelope and discovered that most of the 10 or so pages had been redacted…

But let’s not pretend that the Fed’s carefully scripted, and untimely, release of a disk of public information to me is even remotely the way FOIA is supposed to work. Where are the documents and e-mails about how Goldman was allowed by the Fed to become a bank holding company? Where are the documents from the SEC about Goldman?…

If our government agencies continue to do everything in their considerable power to keep hidden information that belongs in the public realm, all the regulatory reform in the world won’t end the rot on Wall Street.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,