By: Bridget Kraus
How soon after a tragic event happens should news outlets be able to post publicly about them? It seems as though certain news sources broadcast about tragedies in barely any time at all after the fact. News posts covering these events do not leave any time for those directly impacted by the event (i.e. family, close friends, etc.) to have a mourning period. There are outlets that stand out in terms of this fast-paced posting protocol. In particular, TMZ is known for posting tragic stories within minutes of them occurring.
In the wake of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant’s death, TMZ was the first to tell the news. According toTMZ’s post, Bryant passed away in a helicopter crash January 26th, 2020. They broke the news seemingly instantaneously after the incident took place, at about 11:30 am. Tragedy struck, and TMZ was on it in the blink of an eye.
If that’s not enough, Bryant’s family had to learn about the death of a husband and a father through the words of TMZ. The Los Angeles Police Department had been working on telling the family the news; however, it seemed that TMZ had already beat them to the finish line. Alex Villanueva, the Los Angeles County Sheriff, said, “It would be extremely disrespectful to understand that your loved one has perished and you learn about it from TMZ.” Media organizations should wait to receive confirmation from authorities that families have been notified regarding tragedies such as this.
In the United States, the constitution guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press, so there are no laws to prevent news organizations from doing what TMZ did in the case of Kobe Bryant. However, compassion, along with basic human decency, do not seem to have been a factor in their decision to break the news. Did TMZ just want the publicity that goes with being the first to release a story? Human lives were lost in this accident, so there should be a line that can’t be crossed when it comes to respecting those who were deeply affected by the loss. In the end, what is more important: freedom of the press, or respecting the needs of the victims involved? How soon after an incident happens should news sources be able to publicize it? In this case with Kobe Bryant and his family, the respect for human feelings was sacrificed.