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Florida Judge Dismisses George Zimmerman’s Libel Suit Against NBC

By | Monday June 30, 2014 @ 8:02am PDT

Florida Judge Dismisses George Zimmerman’s Libel Suit Against NBCA  Florida judge has dismissed George Zimmerman‘s defamation lawsuit against NBCUniversal. Judge Debra Nelson said Zimmerman’s camp failed to prove NBC News acted with malice when it aired an edited version of his 911 call after shooting Trayvon Martin, according to press reports.

NBCUniversal LogoZimmerman filed the suit in December 2012, after NBC editors cut out portions of audio recordings of his 911 call, which made it sound as if he had volunteered the race of shooting victim Martin unsolicited; in the call, Zimmerman said “he looks black” in response to a question from the 911 dispatcher, asking, of Martin, “Is he black, white or Hispanic?”

“NBC News is gratified by the court’s dismissal of this lawsuit, which we have always believed to be without merit,” the network said this morning in a statement.

NBC News fired three producers over the incident, apologized, but insisted there was no intent to portray Zimmerman “unfairly.” Attorneys for NBC had argued the reports in question aired about a month after the shooting, by which time Zimmerman was a public figure; the judge agreed and said “actual malice” had to be proven, and was not.
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TCA: ‘African Americans’ On Race & The N-Word, George Zimmerman & Paula Deen

By | Wednesday August 7, 2013 @ 12:23pm PDT

Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TCA coverage.

Included on today’s TCA panel on PBS’s new documentary The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross With Henry Louis Gates (along with Gates and journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault) was a grown-up Ruby Bridges, known for being the first black child to attend a public elementary school in the South (1960, age 6, New Orleans). She revealed that she was taught alone in one room for a full year by a teacher from Boston because many of the local teachers refused to teach black kids. “I never missed a day of school and neither did she,” Bridges said.

After the panel, Deadline asked Bridges for her comment about two stories of involving race that have recently dominated the news: The high-profile George Zimmerman case and the less highly-charged instance of Paula Deen confessing under oath to having used the N-word.

On Zimmerman: “Being a mother myself, of young black men and also a mom that’s lost a son to that kind of violence, I believe that anybody who takes a life today needs to be accountable and the justice system needs to work for all of us. I think that race played a part of it [but] I think it was a lot more complicated than that. Read More »

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CNN Wins Monday Prime In News Demo With Two Zimmerman Trial Interviews

CNN chief Jeff Zucker’s claim he’d struck the right balance with George Zimmerman trial coverage rings true with viewers, if not TV critics, this week: his network won Monday primetime among 25-54 year-olds who are the currency of news programming ad sales with programs featuring exclusive interviews with two key figures in the trial. At 9 PM, Piers Morgan Live was cable news’ top-rated programming in the demo. The show featured Morgan’s interview with Rachel Jeantel –  the last person to speak to unarmed teen Trayvon Martin before Zimmerman killed him with a shot to the heart. An average of 678,000 viewers in the age bracket watched her tell Morgan that Martin feared Zimmerman was following him because he “might be a rapist.” That’s Morgan’s biggest audience of that age since his show launched in ’11. (FNC competitor Hannity logged 424,000 viewers in the demo and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow snared 263,000).

At 10 PM, Anderson Cooper’s exclusive interview with juror B37 on AC360 scored cable news the second biggest haul of the night in the demo. An average of 576,000 viewers heard her tell Cooper she thought Zimmerman’s “heart was in the right place” during the incident that led to Martin’s death. Cooper interviewed the juror at 8 PM as well, averaging 474,000 viewers in the key age group, to finish just behind Bill O’Reilly’s 478,000.

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UPDATE: About 11 Million Watched Zimmerman Verdict Saturday Night On Cable News

UPDATE 2:30 PM: Barbara Walters has landed the first interview with George Zimmerman’s parents. Portions of her interview with Robert and Gladys Zimmerman will run tonight on World News and Nightline; her sit down with the couple also will run tomorrow on Good Morning America.

PREVIOUS 8:39 AM: Cable news networks’ ratings skyrocketed Saturday at 10-11PM ET when the verdict was read in the George Zimmerman murder trial. Fox News Channel led the pack with an average of 3,682 million viewers, followed by CNN‘s 3.407 million. CNN was tops in the 25-54 year old demo: 1.1716 million to FNC’s 1.113 mil. HLN ran a distant third in total viewers with 2.2 million — 980,000 of them in the demo and MSNBC brought up the rear with 1.3 million viewers — about half a mil in the demo. A six-woman jury found Zimmerman not guilty in the shooting death of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin:

FNC: 3,682,000 total viewers (1,113,000 in 25-54)
CNN: 3,407,000 total viewers (1,716,000 in 25-54)
MSNBC: 1,298,000 total viewers (510,000 in 25-54)
HLN: 2,203,000 total viewers (980,000 in 25-54)

Saturday night, between 10 PM and 1 AM ET, FNC logged an average of 2.7 million viewers. That’s a big hike compared to the 629,000 viewers the network has averaged in that block of time this calendar year to date. In the demo, FNC clocked 896,000 viewers, compared to its year-to-date average of 124,000. Read More »

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Zimmerman’s NBC Defamation Lawsuit To Resume “ASAP,” According To Lawyer

By | Monday July 15, 2013 @ 12:24pm PDT

George Zimmerman is suing over an edited 911 police call from the night he gunned down Trayvon Martin. The case against NBC News was stayed pending the outcome of the criminal case. Now that’s out of the way, Zimmerman’s Philadelphia attorney James Beasley is ready to proceed, according to The Washington Post. “We’re going to start in earnest ASAP. We just have to get the stay lifted which is a ministerial act,” Beasley told the paper via e-mail. When asked how the not-guilty verdict affects the civil case against NBC News, Beasley responded, “This verdict of not guilty is just that, and shows that at least this jury didn’t believe that George was a racist, profiling, or anything that the press accused George of being. That probably doesn’t get you that much, but it’s simply time for us to start the case and hold accountable anyone who was irresponsible in their journalism.” The original 24-page complaint accused NBC of creating “this false and defamatory misimpression using the oldest form of yellow journalism: manipulating Zimmerman’s own words, splicing together disparate parts of the recording to create the illusion of statements that Zimmerman never actually made.”

Related: First TV Broadcast And Cable Coverage Of Zimmerman Verdict

Filed in Seminole County, the suit adds that “NBC News saw the death of Trayvon Martin not as a tragedy but as an opportunity to increase ratings, and so set about to create the myth that George Zimmerman was a racist and predatory villain.” NBC correspondent Ron Allen is named as a defendant, as are Lilia Rodriguez Luciano and Jeff Burnside; the latter two were fired after an internal investigation determined that the tape had been edited. NBC apologized to Zimmerman, but that was not enough. Here’s how NBC, in a March 27, 2012, broadcast of the Today show, manipulated the tape:

Here is what NBC edited:
Zimmerman: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”

But the full tape went like this:
Zimmerman: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.”
911 Police Dispatcher: “OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?”
Zimmerman: “He looks black.”

Related: About 11M Watch Zimmerman Verdict On Cable News Nets

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CBS Adds Disclaimer to ‘Big Brother’ Sunday Broadcast As Racial Tension Escalates

By | Monday July 15, 2013 @ 8:43am PDT

Did some viewers not have the stomach for Sunday’s edition of CBS‘ racially charged reality series Big Brother? It’s unclear if the ratings slid on the Sunday edition, which aired one day after a six-woman jury pronounced George Zimmerman not guilty in the shooting death of unarmed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin, triggering protests nationwide. Early, timeslot ratings from Nielsen paint a very unclear picture; CBS’s primetime was delayed for about 20 minutes owing to the John Deere Classic Final Round overrun and initial BB numbers are muddied by about 10 minutes of The Good Wife. The ratings mess will have to be sorted out later.

CBS, for the first time, had added a disclaimer to its reality series broadcast, but a CBS rep says that decision was made days before the Zimmerman verdict.

Related: RATINGS RAT RACE: Fox Encores Win Night

“Big Brother is a reality show about a group of people who have no privacy 24/7. At times, the Houseguests may reveal prejudices and other beliefs that CBS does not condone,” CBS said in a printed on-screen message seen by viewers before Sunday’s episode began. “Views or opinions expressed by a Houseguest are those of the individuals speaking and do not represent the views or opinions of CBS. Viewer discretion is advised.” It reportedly marked the first time the long-running reality series had ever run such a disclaimer on-screen. Read More »

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‘Fruitvale Station’ Star Michael B. Jordan Almost Cancels Q&A After Zimmerman Verdict

Pete Hammond

UPDATE: At a Q&A following a Saturday night screening of Fruitvale Station in LA, star Michael B. Jordan told the audience: “I want to hear your questions tonight and answer them. But if you could keep it away from Trayvon, I think my opinion on that is not going to help anybody right now.” Jordan was there to talk about the acclaimed Sundance and Cannes Film Festival award-winning film about Oscar Grant, the young black man who was killed by a white BART officer in a 2009 New Year’s Eve incident at the Fruitvale Station stop in Oakland. ”My heart hurts so bad right now. I wasn’t going to come after I found out about George Zimmerman getting acquitted. It broke me up. That’s why I think this film means so much, because it keeps happening again and again. [We must] learn how to treat each other better and stop judging one another just because we’re different. It’s not just a black and white thing, it’s a people thing. It’s the only way that things are going to take the necessary steps to move in the right direction so things can get better because I don’t think it’s ever gonna stop, but something’s gotta f*****g change.”

Fruitvale Station opened this weekend on seven screens. The Weinstein Company‘s distribution head Erik Lomis said the movie is headed for what may be  a stellar $50,000 per screen first weekend gross putting it the top tier of 2013 specialty openings. He says the company plans to expand it to another 6 markets next weekend and go nationally on July 26th. Read More »

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UPDATE: First TV Broadcast And Cable Coverage Of Zimmerman Not Guilty Verdict

By and | Saturday July 13, 2013 @ 7:00pm PDT

2ND UPDATE: The answer depended on where in the country you were watching tonight’s ending to the ‘Stand Your Ground’ case of neighborhood watch George Zimmerman’s fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. But CBS among broadcasters and MSNBC among cable were first to cover the verdict live.

Among broadcasters, ABC News missed live coverage of the verdict but had the most comprehensive coverage. Anchor David Muir was joined live by Chief Legal Anchor Dan Abrams in NY,  Correspondents Matt Gutman and Gio Benitez outside of the Seminole County courthouse in Sanford, and Senior Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas in Washington DC. A Special Edition of 20/20 continued until 11 PM ET with a complete look at the trial. According to TVNewser, CBS was first on the air at 9:58 PM during the closing credits of 48 Hours in the Eastern and Central time zones for a very brief special anchored by Jim Axelrod. Then on NBC Lester Holt anchored a blink-and-you-missed-it special report interrupting the final seconds of a TV movie while the verdict was being read. And ABC first joined as the jurors were being polled: the network was showing the canceled 666 Park Avenue and promoted the live verdict in a news crawl.

By contrast there was blanket coverage all today on HLN, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC which reported the verdict at 9:49:00 followed by CNN at 9:49:55 and FNC at 21:50:11. FNC’s Harris Faulkner anchored when the verdict was read and following the announcement. Live coverage and analysis continued with Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren both phoning into the program. Plans are still fluid but FNC will remain live until 1 AM Sunday for more guest analysis. All cable news have seen ratings spike because Read More »

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CNN Chief Jeff Zucker Ignores Pundits, Gives Himself High Marks For Zimmerman Trial Coverage

By | Friday July 12, 2013 @ 1:50pm PDT

CNN chief Jeff Zucker patted himself on the back again Friday — this time in re the amount of time his network has spent covering the George Zimmerman murder trial, instead of covering the coup in Egypt at the height of that unrest. “A bunch of bunk” is how he described the nicking his network has received at the hands of industry navel-lint gazers. “I feel increasingly comfortable and confident that we got it in the right balance,” Zucker said this morning at the IESE Business School, as reported by the AP. Industry critics are unused to the likes of Zucker at CNN; he’s a master of promotion, and this marks the second time he’s publicly patted himself on the back while critics howl, since he took over at CNN six months ago. Last time was during the network’s coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing, during which the network suffered one of its biggest embarrassments ever when John King incorrectly reported an arrest had been made.

Last week, as the Egypt crisis came to a head, CNN International focused almost entirely on that situation while CNN domestically stayed laser-focused on the murder trial of Zimmerman, a Florida neighborhood watch volunteer. CNN’s coverage continued Friday, and when the jury began deliberations, the network boasted that its Martin Savidge scored the first in-depth interview with Mark O’Mara, Zimmerman’s lead defense attorney, in which he discussed why he took the case, his first impressions upon meeting Zimmerman, “and his thoughts on race and its effects on the case.” CNN has done well, ratings-wise, with Zimmerman coverage — though not as well, naysayers note, as the cabler did in the second quarter in some dayparts. Read More »

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‘The N Word’ Special Boosts CNN Ratings By 90%

By | Tuesday July 2, 2013 @ 4:28pm PDT

CNN improved its ratings fortune a whopping 90% in the news demo of adults 25-54 and nearly 60% among viewers of all ages last night when it telecast the perfect-storm special, which brilliantly tapped into viewers’ summertime appetite for all things Paula Deen AND George Zimmerman. An average of 612,000 people watched The N Word — 218,000 of them in the demo. The previous four weeks, CNN had averaged 388,000 viewers in the time slot, and 115,000 in the demo. Sure, CNN still finished fourth among cable news networks — third in the demo — with the controversial special. But, hey, up is up.

Here’s how it went:

CNN, in a ratings hole, has waded deep into the trial of Zimmernan, who’s been charged in the fatal shooting of unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin, adding a new 10 PM Anderson Cooper-hosted trial recap show — and yes, we to have heard the gag about the network changing its name to ZNN. Meanwhile, the TV ratings gift that is Paula Deen’s unsuccessful bid to manage fallout from a deposition acknowledgement she’d used the N word is the stuff Reporters Who Cover Television will be talking about for weeks to come. Clever CNN combined these two biggest ratings-getters into one special, The N Word, which, maybe most notably, included a 15-minute segment mulling, N Word Vs Cracker: Which is Worse? Read More »

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NBCUni Sued By Trayvon Martin Shooter Over Edited 911 Tape

By | Thursday December 6, 2012 @ 3:07pm PST

George Zimmerman sued NBCUniversal today over an edited 911 call from the night he shot Trayvon Martin. “NBC created this false and defamatory misimpression using the oldest form of yellow journalism: manipulating Zimmerman’s own words, splicing together disparate parts of the recording to create the illusion of statements that Zimmerman never actually made,” says the defamation suit (read it here) filed Thursday in Seminole County, Fla. The 24-page complaint adds that “NBC News saw the death of Trayvon Martin not as a tragedy but as an opportunity to increase ratings, and so set about to create the myth that George Zimmerman was a racist and predatory villain.” NBC correspondent Ron Allen, as well as Lilia Rodriguez Luciano and Jeff Burnside are also named as defendants. Luciano and Burnside, as well as a NBC producer, were fired after an internal investigation determined that the tape had been edited. Read More »

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Third Person Exits NBC Over Misleading Edit Of Zimmerman’s 911 Audio

By | Thursday May 3, 2012 @ 9:01pm PDT

A third person involved with a misleadingly edited recording of George Zimmerman’s 911 call to police in the Trayvon Martin case is no longer employed by NBC News. TV Newser reported today that Luciano was dismissed after an investigation that also led to the firing of a still-unidentified Miami-based NBC News producer. In a segment for the Today show on March 22, the New York Times reported today, Lilia Luciano used the misleadingly edited version of Zimmerman’s 911 call that had been broadcast previously on Miami NBC affiliate WTVJ. In a cascading repetition, yet another correspondent, Ron Allen, used the misleading audio in another story a few days later. Luciano is the third journalist to have lost their job over this story. WJTV reporter Jeff Burnside was also fired for his role in broadcasting the misleading audio. WTVJ said when Burnside was fired last week that its edited audio was a separate incident from the Today report on the NBC network.

Related:
Miami TV Reporter Fired For Separate But Similar Edit Of 911 Call
NBC Fires Producer For Misleading Edit Of Zimmerman’s 911 Call

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Miami TV Reporter Fired For Separate But Similar Edit Of Zimmerman’s 911 Call

By | Sunday April 29, 2012 @ 4:32pm PDT

Another Miami-area TV journalist has been fired as a result of a local NBC affiliate’s broadcast of a misleading edited version of George Zimmerman’s 911 call the night Trayvon Martin was killed. Local TV station WTVJ veteran Jeff Burnside was fired Friday following an investigation of the station’s separate airing of the conversation that was edited in much the same way as the Today show’s broadcast that resulted in the firing of an unidentified NBC News producer based in Miami. Several other employees were disciplined in that incident. The NBC affiliate acknowledged the station independently made the same questionable edits to Zimmerman’s call to police that were widely denounced when the network’s Today show aired its version of the clip last month. NBC6 aired a correction and an apology to viewers last week. Two other station employees were disciplined. Station management emphasized the Today show and Miami edits took place in separate incidents involving different people. The station is expected to hire an assistant news director and add layers to its editing workflow.

Related: NBC Fires Producer For Misleading Edit Of Zimmerman’s 911 Call

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Trayvon Martin Case Arrest Ignites Academy’s ‘Mockingbird’ 50th Anniversary Screening

By | Thursday April 12, 2012 @ 4:57pm PDT
Pete Hammond

“What are the chances that this day in Florida George Zimmerman would be arrested? What are  the chances that we sit in Beverly Hills on this day to see To Kill A Mockingbird,  and these kinds of tensions still exist in our country?” asked host Tavis Smiley during his introductory remarks Wednesday evening at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences 50th anniversary screening and L.A. premiere of Universal’s flawless digital restoration of its 1962 classic Oscar winner. As Academy members, press, industryites and the public gathered (Academy events guru Ellen Harrington who also conducted the post-screening Q&A said it sold out within two days of their announcement), the Trayvon Martin murder case was heating up in a scenario eerily reminiscent in some ways of Harper Lee’s iconic 1960 novel To Kill A Mockingbird and its film version directed by Robert Mulligan.

Although the story deals with heroic lawyer Atticus Finch,  as played by Gregory Peck in his Oscar winning performance, defending an innocent black man (Brock Peters) against the inflammatory accusations  of a young white woman in the Jim Crow south of the 1930s , it also a movie about many other things including the love of a father and is one of the best, if not the best, film about childhood ever committed to celluloid. Mary Badham who was 10 years old at the time she played Scout was in attendance and received a standing ovation when she was introduced after the film for a Q&A along with civil rights attorney Connie Rice … Read More »

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NBC News President Talks About Edited Call

By | Sunday April 8, 2012 @ 11:52pm PDT

NBC News President Steve Capus has updated Reuters about that edited call from George Zimmerman to police in the moments before he shot Trayvon Martin. It was “a mistake and not a deliberate act to misrepresent the phone call,” Capus maintains. Reuters reports that NBC News brass interviewed more than a dozen staffers during its investigation of the matter, including the Miami-based producer who was fired Thursday. “The producer who edited the call was questioned extensively about motivation, and it was determined that the person had cut the video clip down to meet a maximum time requirement for the length of the segment – a common pressure in morning television – and inadvertently edited the call in a way that proved misleading.” Capus said that NBC News’ broadcast standards department, led by David McCormick, has been holding meetings with various NBC News shows, as well as the network’s specialized units, to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Capus also is holding meetings among the network executives.

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NBC Apologizes For Editing George Zimmerman’s 911 Call About Trayvon Martin

By | Tuesday April 3, 2012 @ 5:08pm PDT

NBC News apologized today for the way a 911 dispatcher’s conversation with George Zimmerman concerning Trayvon Martin was edited for broadcast last week. The edited version made it appear that the neighborhood watch captain’s decision to follow Martin in the Sanford, Fla., housing complex might have been racially motivated. Zimmerman subsequently shot the unarmed 17-year-old during a struggle. Martin’s death has resulted in nationwide protests. Following a Fox News before-and-after broadcast comparison of of the unedited and edited version, NBC News launched an investigation. “During our investigation it became evident that there was an error made in the production process that we deeply regret,” NBC News representative Lauren Kapp said in a statement. “We will be taking the necessary steps to prevent this from happening in the future and apologize to our viewers.” The segment Today broadcast last week ran as “Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.” The full conversation ran as: “Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about. Dispatcher: OK, and this guy – is he black, white or Hispanic? Zimmerman: He looks black.”

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