A former commercial pilot and trusted source of reporters at KTVU is the person responsible for handing the fake names "Captain Sum Ting Wong," "We To Lo," "Ho Lee Fuk," and "Bang Ding Ow" to the news channel, which were read on-air even though the channel had itself reported the real pilots' names just days before.
The ex-pilot source reportedly emailed or texted the names to reporter Roland De Wolk, who passed them off onto the newsroom staff to be checked. Local media watchdog blogger Rich Leiberman reports that a source at the station has detailed the fact-checking process:
"You better check these, (names), out", said De Wolk after he passed the names over to newsroom personnel. KTVU's Managing Editor, Michelle Toy, who saw the list and whose duty, (among normal news procedures), was to read the names out loud, phonetically, raised the issue that the names sounded suspicious. Told that they were confirmed by an NTSB official, (later to be known as an intern), OKed the list. Toy, who is of Asian descent, was not one of the four staffers let go by KTVU and its corporate owner, Cox Media.
When asked if the ex-Pilot consultant sent the names as a joke, and if the station knew that, the source replied, "Apparently not." Even though KTVU had already posted the real pilot's names online, at least four people saw the list of names and OK'ed it before Anchor Tori Campbell read them on-air. At some point, Managing Editor Michelle Toy even spoke up to point out that the fake names sounded like Chinese origin, even though Asiana is a Korean-based airline.
De Wolk is currently suing for wrongful termination and the station has put the entire staff under a gag order. De Wolk was fired shortly after the incident Special Projects Producer Cristina Gastelu. Producer Brad Belstock was also fired, apparently for tweeting "Oh shit." after the incident.
Previously: Three KTVU Producers Fired Over Asiana Reporting Debacle
All Asiana Airlines coverage on SFist
[Rich Lieberman 415]