The Monster in the media

By Amanda King

Voices Editor


As I’m sure everyone has either heard or read about, Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant, Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, Alyssa Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, John Altobelli, Christina Mauser and Ara Zobayan died as a result of a helicopter crash on Jan. 26.

Given Bryant’s former career as an American professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers, every major news outlet has extensively covered the tragic event. As of today, it is still dominating headlines.

However, infamous celebrity tabloid TMZ was first to break the story with an early publication of Bryant’s death — before Bryant’s family, or any of the other victim’s loved ones, could be notified by the Los Angeles Police Department.

The utter inhumanity, the sheer disrespect and disregard TMZ has shown for the emotional pain inflicted upon Bryant’s family — and the other victim’s families who knew that their loved ones were on board that flight as well — speaks for itself.

Even Sheriff Alex Villanueva of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, who gave the official press conference addressing the crash later that day, criticized TMZ’s vile publication of the situation.

“[It] would be entirely inappropriate right now to identify anyone by name, until the coroner has made the identification… and until they’ve made notifications to next of kin,” Villanueva said.  “It would be extremely disrespectful to understand that your loved ones perished, and you learned about it from TMZ. That is just wholly inappropriate.”

Moreover, TMZ’s early coverage of the tragedy spurred other outlets into a rush to report the story themselves. The result was varying levels of drastically errored findings.

The chief national correspondent at ABC News, Matt Gutman falsely reported — during ABC’s Pro Bowl broadcast — that all four of Bryant’s daughters “were believed” to have perished in the crash.

President Donald Trump tweeted the deaths of Bryant and “three others.”

Again, this all came before the Bryants or any other families could be notified by officials.

What’s even more ridiculously erroneous is what came after all of these false reports: The excruciating media coverage of the crash. Everyday a new headline.

For the past five consecutive days, DailyMail has run “news” stories sensationalizing this tragedy.

Jan. 26: “LeBron in tears over Kobe’s death”

Jan. 27: “Breaking: All 9 Kobe crash victims identified”

Jan. 28: “Fireball at Kobe chopper crash site”

Jan. 29: “Kobe crash captured on security cam”

And perhaps the most revolting of all, Jan. 30: “Is this the last ever photo of Kobe?” This one was accompanied by a fan’s selfie taken with Bryant in the background at the Mamba Sports Academy, watching his daughter Gianna’s basketball team play. I felt sick just clicking on the article in order to understand the context.

I can’t even slightly comprehend the pain that these families are suffering right now, in first losing their loved ones, and then seeing it splashed across the pages of every tabloid and news outlet — likely for the foreseeable future.

As of Jan. 30, the most recent headlines are proclaiming that Vanessa Bryant has “finally” spoken publicly about the terrible event. “Finally,” as if she is expected to address the public about her personal tragedy.

I’ve never given the common saying “celebrities are real people too” much thought, outside of paparazzi, and fans not understanding boundaries or posts expressing mass shock at famous people doing normal, human things. But this exploitation of a fatal helicopter crash that killed nine people, all rationalized because there was a victim on board whose name was well-known, goes beyond failing to treat famous people as normal people.

It’s blatantly inhumane and careless, and all of the victims and their families deserve better than to be bombarded with “exclusives” and inaccurate reports of their loved ones’ deaths. They deserve the ability to grieve without “requests for comments” and pressure from media and from the public to speak about their pain.

Now, I am fully aware that many of the news reportings — that is, many that were published after official notifications could be made — and the plethora of social media posts and dedications were only coming from a place of sorrow and regret for this accident.

But there’s a larger problem here.

News media in society today is concentrated almost exclusively around tragedies, acts of violence, natural or political disasters and other various horrors. While one can, and has, made the argument that these findings are reported so frequently because the world is descending into chaos, and while this concept may or may not be the case, it is not the sole culprit for this trend.

An even bigger problem than the reports themselves is the reason why these horrors dominate headlines: they sell.  

When we hear that someone we’ve all admired has died, we want the details. We want to know how it happened. Maybe it doesn’t stem from a villainous thirst, maybe it’s just an inherent need to understand how events like this happen, but the fact remains: These news outlets operate this way because of us.

So perhaps the next time an enticing, exploitive headline appears before you, don’t click.

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