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This New Pittsburgh Courier editorial appeared in the July 4-10, 2018 print edition.

Both KDKA-TV (2) and WPXI-TV (11) have been feeling the heat on social media, and it’s not because they gave the wrong high temperature for your 4th of July holiday.

It was an error that’s just a little bigger —reporting over the air to an entire market of nearly two million people that Antwon Rose II was seen in a video firing a gun during the North Braddock shooting, June 19, and that there was gun residue on Rose’s hands.

As we all know now, that report was 100 percent false.

It never should have been reported in the first place.

Talk about Fake News.

As a news organization, The New Pittsburgh Courier knows that the coverage and competition to “get the story first” was running rampant in Pittsburgh. After all, the June 19 shooting of an unarmed 17-year-old Black teenager by a White police officer in the back brought the big boys here—CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, and probably Telemundo and Al Jazeera (The Courier cannot confirm that Telemundo and Al Jazeera were actually in Pittsburgh…so if this is Fake News, we apologize in advance…)

A few days later, Friday, June 22, WPXI thought they had the scoop of all scoops—“High-level police sources,” WPXI’s David Johnson said on air, “told Channel 11 news today that there is video that appears to show Antwon Rose firing a gun in North Braddock minutes before he was shot and killed. Our police sources also told Channel 11 that gunshot residue was found on Rose’s hands.”

Later in the day, KDKA jumped in on the “Let’s tell our mainstream viewers what they really want to hear bandwagon,” and reported via a Jon Delano package that “sources did tell KDKA that surveillance video showed Rose firing a gun.”

WTAE-TV (4) did not report the false information.

Before the day was over, both Channel 2 and 11 did report that Allegheny County Police Superintendent Coleman McDonough reiterated, “While ACPD does have a video showing the North Braddock incident, that video does NOT show Antwon Rose firing a gun. The information about gunshot residue is also false.”

McDonough, in that statement issued to all local media on June 22, also said that, “We caution the media about providing irresponsible information from sources that are not verified.”

KDKA seemed to back off. But WPXI was adamant about their original report, sticking to their guns (The Courier cannot confirm that WPXI has guns…so if this is Fake News, we apologize in advance…)

“To be transparent, here at Channel 11 news, we have multiple sources telling multiple journalists in our newsroom the information we reported today. We circled back with our sources after that statement from the superintendent (McDonough)…veteran law enforcement officials tell Channel 11 news the test for the gunshot residue can be done very quickly, and initial results can be known immediately…also that information is something investigators would want to know as soon as possible.”

As you may know, on the morning of June 27, before Allegheny County DA Stephen Zappala Jr. announced homicide charges against Officer Michael Rosfeld in the shooting death of Rose, DA spokesman Mike Manko took local television media to task, saying, “When we tried to correct the record Friday (June 22), in a very detailed statement about what was wrong with what was reported, that information was met with such defiance and arrogance that it was deeply offensive and bitterly disappointing.”

Manko did not mention any specific television station, but later said in front of all cameras: “You failed. You continuously fed (the community) information that was wrong.”

Later in the day (June 27) during its 6 p.m. newscast, KDKA-TV did not sugarcoat their mess up. Stacy Smith said the retraction: “On Friday, based on information given to us by sources, we reported that Antwon Rose Jr. fired a gun in a shooting in North Braddock prior to being shot by East Pittsburgh police Officer Michael Rosfeld. In light of DA Stephen Zappala’s findings revealed today, our sources proved to be incorrect, and we regret the error.”

KDKA owned up to their mistake.

WPXI took a different approach.

Later on its June 27 newscasts, WPXI never apologized for having its facts wrong; instead, taking to our TV screens to inform viewers they did not “intentionally report false information. Our job as journalists is to not take any information without questioning it, and that includes information from government officials.”

After sleeping on it overnight (along with some on social media calling WPXI’s statement a “half a__ apology”), Channel 11 finally came to their senses and provided a written statement on its website, dated June 28. It read, in part: “Unfortunately, one week ago we reported that sources told us a video appeared to show Rose firing a gun in a drive-by shooting. As we told you Wednesday, that video does *not* appear to show Rose firing a gun. We want to be clear, we apologize for any pain this report caused Antwon’s family and the community.”

The Courier feels left out…the “high-level police sources” that WPXI had never called us first to say that there’s video of Antwon Rose II firing a gun in North Braddock. Hmm, wonder why we were never called…

It’s probably because, in the words of WPXI, “our job as journalists is to not take any information without questioning it,” and the New Pittsburgh Courier surely would have questioned this report. Where is that alleged video? Can we have a copy of that video? And most importantly…as a “high-level police source,” are you in any way connected to Officer Rosfeld, the East Pittsburgh police force, or do you have any vested interest in shaping a narrative that paints the victim (Rose) in a more negative light, and the officer (Rosfeld) in a more positive light?

Will Pittsburgh’s Black community accept the two stations’ apologies?

That’s up to each individual. But one thing is certain: there is simply too much talent at KDKA and WPXI to let such an erroneous report hit the air.

The New Pittsburgh Courier agrees with Manko’s assertion that some local TV stations, in this particular instance, “failed.”

 

 

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