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The Ethics of Death in Journalism

Andrew Connolly, Staff Writer

It didn’t take long for the world to find out about the death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant.  TMZ broke the news of Bryant’s death just moments after it happened. 


With the reports appearing so quickly, it made the public question if they were true. Of course, we know now that TMZ was correct about Bryant being involved in the helicopter crash, but this didn’t stop the company from receiving plenty of backlash for the reports.  


In a news conference the Sunday of Bryant’s death, Los Angeles County sheriff Alex Villeneuva said that the authorities had not yet contacted Bryant’s family. “It would be extremely disrespectful to understand your loved one has perished and to learn about it from TMZ,” said Mr. Villenueva. 


This is exactly how Bryant’s family found out. The early and unconfirmed online reports from TMZ informed the Bryant family about the death of their loved one. No doubt a horrific day for the Bryant family, not only because of the death of a loved one but also because of the many more reports that followed. 


There were many reports on Kobe’s death after TMZ’s, but many were conflicted as to who the rest of the passengers in the helicopter were, leading to a lot of confusion from the public and for the families that had loved ones named in reports.


Before the LAPD made any official reports, news sites were confirming the death of Bryant, but some reports claimed that the rest of Bryant’s family were also involved in the crash.  Other reports even claimed that a former teammate of Bryant, Rick Fox, was involved in the crash. 


Rick Fox spoke out on what his family went through following the chaos of all these conflicting reports. “One of my daughter’s greatest fears is finding out that a parent or one of her parents would be lost through social media instead of from a loved one or a family member and she fortunately called me. We were just talking and crying about the news of Kobe,” said Fox, on TNT’s Tuesday night special honoring Kobe. “My family went through in the midst of all this something I couldn’t have imagined them experiencing.”  


It’s hard to understand for most people because they don’t have to worry about the death of a loved one going viral. Luckily for the Fox family, the reports were false, but it still must’ve been a scary time for the Fox family.  

Bryant’s family wasn’t so lucky, however, as we know they lost both Kobe and Gianna that day and found out through TMZ. It shows that any news source should try to worry about getting the best story out, not the first one. If TMZ and every other site released an accurate report after confirmation, they wouldn’t have received the backlash they did, and the families who lost a loved one in the crash could’ve found out from authorities, not through a screen.

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