The media’s mismanagement of tragedy

The media does not react properly when a tragedy occurs, as was shown with the death of Kobe Bryant.

Jack Kirk, Sports Editor

When tragedy strikes as it did on Jan 26, when NBA legend Kobe Bryant passed away in a helicopter crash that took nine lives, including his 13-year old daughter Gianna, there is a certain expectation for the media to hold ethical standards and get the correct information out to the public. But, as happened in the case of the former Laker’s unfortunate death, the media often throws out humanity in favor of “journalism”.

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At around 10 a.m in California a helicopter crashed, killing all nine passengers. The report from TMZ soon after was that Kobe Bryant was killed in the crash. According to numerous accounts, including one from LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, TMZ reported the news before Bryant’s family could be informed. TMZ denies this allegation and claims that they had permission from “Kobe’s people” to report, but if this is true, then it is a gross display of reporting. No person should learn about a family member’s passing through social media or a news outlet. They should be properly informed through the authorities. If they had permission, which for Bryant’s family’s sake I hope is true, then I can almost understand the quick reporting. But if not, the backlash the news outlet is facing is completely justified.

After the initial report, the media failed the public again, with various reports flooding out about who was with Kobe in the accident. Some outlets reported that Bryant’s former teammate Rick Fox was killed in the accident. Others reported that all four of Bryant’s daughters were on board the fallen aircraft. With all the conflicting reports swirling around the media, it was hard for the public to see what was fact and what was false. This kind of reporting is extremely irresponsible, where journalists do not care if they are necessarily correct about the information they are reporting, instead only caring about getting their story out fast so they can get clicks and traffic on their websites. It took hours for the truth about who was in the helicopter to be reported, but by that time it was hard to trust those reports, as there were already so many different stories circulating twitter and other media sites. The public is supposed to trust the media.

With the basketball icon’s sudden passing, there was no way the NBA could adjust their schedule for that day’s slate of games, so the players had to play through tears and heartbreak. A scheduled game at the Staples Center between the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers was postponed at the Lakers’ request, as the players and most everyone in the organization was working with grief counselors. This was the first time since President John F. Kennedy was assassinated that a game was canceled or postponed in the NBA, which can attest to the impact that Bryant’s death had on the league as a whole.

So with this knowledge, I think it was disrespectful of the various sports journalists, who shoved microphones into the players’ faces in post-game interviews asking how they felt after one of their sport’s greatest players died. Many of these guys idolized this man, or played against or alongside him, so they were devastated to hear that he had died. He was like family, so to be put on the spot after the death of a “family member” just seems to cross a line. They barely had time to process the event and then had to go compete at the highest level despite their overwhelming emotions. The last thing they need is a bunch of media members bombarding them with questions like “how do you feel after Kobe’s death?” or “what did Kobe mean to you?” in their locker room. Give them a couple of days to grieve like a normal person would if they lost a friend or family member. Because that’s what they are, normal people who just lost someone near and dear to them.

This is not the first time the media has completely botched initial coverage of a tragedy and unfortunately I do not believe it will be the last. The only thing I can hope for is that journalists stop caring as much about seeking clicks on their websites and getting their story out first, and that they instead focus on reporting the whole truth and being human beings reporting on other human beings.