In the desire to get the news, mistakes are made. NBC and CBS made a whopper on Monday: they wrongfully identified Rollie Chance as the killer of 12 people at the Navy Yard. It is horrible that they did that. It is very painful to Rollie Chance. Frankly, the CBS/NBC mistake terrifies me because I know how easy it is to make a mistake and the next time I could be the one who did it. It is easy to make a mistake -- and no one wants to do it. I know that neither CBS nor NBC wanted to hurt Rollie Chance. It was a mistake and yes, a whopper.
But lucky for CBS and NBC, they can fix this mistake -- and they should. That is the right thing to do -- legally and morally. It is LIBEL PER SE TO FALSELY ACCUSE SOMEONE OF A CRIME. Bingo! They did it. This is not a close case. No jury would have trouble with this one. And they did not just accuse him of stealing a ham from the grocery store -- they accused him of being a vile killer of 12. That is a huge mistake requiring a huge fix. Close cases should go to court to resolve -- this one is not close.
Paying him now and not after making him jump through the hoops of a lawsuit -- and paying him fairly and fully -- is also the decent and moral thing to do. Sure the network lawyers could try to run out the clock and make his life more miserable -- or they could do the right thing and be proud of themselves. It is also consistent with the code of professional responsibility since this one is so obvious. The networks are going to lose this one, so they should be smart now. If the networks decline to do the right thing now -- since the end result is obvious -- I hope a jury hits the networks so hard their heads spin (And I hope the shareholders are reading this...)
How much? Huge... this caused big damage to Rollie. The libel went around the world and is now 'stuck' on the internet for people to read for generations. Networks and their insurance companies can afford to pay up. Moreover, news about a fair compensation will be reported and will go on the internet to attempt to defeat the pain of the false information. Reporting an admission of a mistake about someone's reputation helps restore the reputation.
And Rollie Chance isn't just no one. He is a good man. Rollie Chance's reputation is worth a lot of money and they damaged it. Among other things, he is a man who enlisted in the Navy and spent 24 years rising to Officer level in the Navy. That is a big deal. (I didn't do that, did you? ) He is a good man and he deserves to have his reputation back. A huge sum money from NBC and CBS will remind him his reputation, that he earned, is worth something. It will go far towards compensating him for the mistake.
I also urge CBS and NBC to call Google and figure out how to get the real killer's PICTURE separated from the good man Rollie Chance's name. If you google Rollie, you see the picture of the REAL killer, a guy who viciously gunned down 12 innocent people! The internet is forever unless CBS and NBC use their collective power to fix it. If they do not, the damage done to Rollie is much bigger and that means add millions to the damage CBS and NBC did.
So -- CBS and NBC lawyers, get calling. If you don't know Rollie's number, call me and I will get it for you (he was on ON THE RECORD last night.)
I told Rollie when he walked off the set that he should get fully and fairly compensated for the libel per se by the networks.... and the compensation should be sizable as the damage sure is. The network lawyers should call him today (his lawyer) and settle the matter. The lawyers should not drag this out, and make his life miserable even more by not respecting him and fixing this. That is harming him even more.
Finally, I told Rollie on and off air, even though I compete with CBS and NBC, that this mistake could happen to any of us in the business -- including me. We don't do it purposely but negligently. I know the fine journalists at CBS and NBC feel terrible. I also told Rollie (off air) that if CBS and NBC do the right thing, do it fast, that he should be gracious, accept the compensation and acknowledge publicly it was a mistake (not intentional) and that one mistake, as lousy as it is, could happen to anyone and does not mean either network is bad or has lousy journalists. A full compensation only means a horrible mistake that has been made has been fixed and honorably. Remember, backing your car in the grocery story parking into someone else's car lot does not mean you are a lousy driver. You made a mistake. That is what CBS and NBC did. They just made a mistake. How one handles a mistake says a lot about that person. Mistakes should be fixed, and once fixed, move on. You pay the repair IN FULL, you apologize, it gets accepted -- and everyone moves on.
If CBS and NBC do not do the right thing, then it is fair to think they are a lousy news organization -- that they don't care. If on the other hand they move fast and do the right thing, we should admire CBS and NBC, more than before they made the mistake. I admire people who make mistakes, admit it and fix it -- don't you? I
PS to the rest of us in the business: the more we publish that Rollie was wronged, the more we all help fix the problem for him and help him regain his reputation. He deserves our help. Our publishing that he was wronged will come up in google searches and will counter the false stuff on the internet. We will thus remind everyone -- it was NOT Rollie. He is not a mass a killer.
And a second note to the rest of us in the business: don't be so sanctimonious in reporting on CBS and NBC on this one -- we all know we could be next or, worse, have already done it!