I will never forget what I was doing on January 26, 2020. As I finished up in the kitchen, my roommate rushed out of her room to notify me of the news. Kobe Bryant, along with his daughter, Gianna Bryant, and seven others, perished in a helicopter crash. An ordinary day turned into a day of grief for thousands. As people tried to sort through the truth, news outlets rushed to report the story. During this time, many falsities were reported. Thousands on social media critiqued news outlets like TMZ and ABC News. The sudden tragedy left people concerned with the media’s ethical practices. In today’s age, understanding the importance of reporting is crucial.
At approximately 2:24 pm, E.T., TMZ posted the story of the helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. After TMZ first reported it, many news stations followed suit. Without confirmation from local officials, the news became one of the top trending topics of the day. Different stories circled the internet. It was an endless stream of assumptions. Assumptions that led ABC News reporter, Matt Guttman, to be suspended for inaccurately reporting that all four of Kobe Bryant’s children were on the helicopter. Instead of waiting to get all the accurate information, Guttman assumed that the children were on board. Several social media users believed in Guttman’s statement. I saw people tweeting condolences for all four children. When the rumors were denounced, police confirmed that Gianna Bryant was on board. One user wrote, “responsible journalism is very important in situations like these.” As journalists, we must follow a code of ethics while also trying to do our jobs.
TMZ was also condemned by people around the world and also by the police. According to the Los Angeles police, TMZ reported before the next of kin was notified. The owner of TMZ, Harvey Levin, defended breaking Kobe Bryant’s death. He claimed that a Kobe Bryant source confirmed the death.
“When somebody of that magnitude dies so tragically, this becomes a worldwide, massive story,” Levin said as he explained his reasoning.
Whether the source confirmed it or not, it was inconsiderate for TMZ to report the story. Families of the victims had to find out via social media that their loved ones perished. Through social media, we’ve lost our morals and respect. Everything is about likes, views, and clicks. Although Kobe Bryant was a celebrity, we need to be more empathetic. We forget that celebrities are humans as well.
This poor decision has led fans and celebrities to sign petitions to cancel TMZ. The petition has over 600,000 signatures.
Journalism is the profession of preparing news to be broadcasted. While we need to deliver a story as our job, we must remember journalistic ethics. By remembering, we can ensure that we are reporting accurate information, minimizing harm and being accountable for our actions. Journalists on this day did not follow these and it showed. Sometimes waiting for the right information is better than trying to report first. I believe people would have respected the art of journalism more had reporters done their job correctly.
Lastly, I give my condolences to the families of victims. I pray that they can get through this difficult time with the people they love. As decent humans, let us try to respect the families during their grieving. Rest in peace to the nine beautiful souls that now glide through heaven.