When Are We Going To Talk About Journalistic Integrity or Lack Thereof?
When are we finally going to rise above online chatter and Twitter wars, and figure out ways to resolve pending items that desperately need to be addressed?
Why are we satisfied with bitter feuds with energetic strangers that lead to traded insults and the belief that your vision and assessment is the only reasonable contender that can’t be successfully challenged away from the front runner?
For the past few weeks, following the horrifically tragic death of iconic sportsman Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter/budding protege, and seven other victims, we’ve been embroiled in a relentlessly polarizing debate over morals and principles, as it pertains to dignified coverage of a catastrophic event.
The chaos literally began less than an hour after the confirmation of Bryant’s death in a chartered helicopter, that crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, California, on a foggy Sunday morning.
The weather in Los Angles on that fateful day was bad enough to ground the fleet of helicopters assigned to the LAPD, but for reasons that mystify, Bryant’s hired pilot was determined to risk it all for the goal of getting his passengers to their basketball tournament.
Most of us got the terrible news via social media, and almost immediately the rumors of who the other victims were began to swirl with reckless abandon, as so-called reputable outlets like ABC News, went as far as to report the unvetted claim that all four of Bryant’s daughters were on board.
While stunned observers were on pins and needles, as the horror story was still unfolding, an aggressively circulated article containing details about Bryant’s 2004 rape case was gathering ire from angered naysayers. They couldn’t fathom why a reporter from The Washington Post was maximizing a calamitous moment in our cultural history to the benefit of questionable exposure.
This was clearly a quest to shame the makeshift memorial taking shape on platforms that are sizable for unplanned tributes that naturally gain momentum as the word spreads.
The debates were centered around whether or not timing should play a vital role in the decisions that judge the value of human lives.
The deep division kept widening, even after we were given the accurate list of the dead, and soberly internalized the newly activated nightmare that multiple families were cruelly facing, without notice.
Some of you felt very strongly that the curated legacy of a worshipped hero, deserves the full treatment, starting with the worst of them all. And regardless of the circumstances of fatal departure, and the heartbreaking additions to a sorrowful development, it’s pertinent to lead with the damning item that won’t be delayed.
Some of us were caught off guard by the callousness on display during a period of severe gravity stemming from the bleak announcement, that rightfully inspired an avalanche of grief, that took the usual form of heartfelt tweets and posts, aimed at illustrating hurt feelings over the unfathomable.
The collision of ideals and raw emotions formed a disarrayed landscape of turmoil, as each side swore that their mission statement carried the relevant blueprint for how these notable occurrences should be astutely handled, across the board.
The abrupt and ill-advised suspension of the assertive Washington Post journalist who felt compelled to remind wounded fans of a newly fallen star, about his epic downfall from long ago, only added more flames to an out-of-control fire.
That bad judgment call, empowered Bryant’s unapologetic detractors, who took the temporary dismissal very personally, and interpreted her punishment as vital proof of how powerful men with untouchable statutes, automatically receive unwarranted protection at the expense of helpless victims.
That disruption transitioned into the pool of murkiness, as the pressure was on for news organizations to remain on high alert, when it came to the complete coverage of Kobe Bryant.
The storied tale had to go beyond the standard updates of how the families of the victims were coping amid the ongoing investigation to determine the cause of the ghastly crash.
Enter CBS, Gayle King, and the hellish interview that certainly didn’t start off that way.
The mindset must’ve been garnered from the online furor, that rallied around the argument that there’s no such thing as a “grace period” when it comes to tirelessly campaigning against the idolizing of a celebrated figure, whose untimely death can’t take precedence over mandated derailment in his stark absence.
King landed the first sit down situation with Bryant’s longtime friend and fellow basketball pro, Lisa Leslie, and the expectation was that viewers would be treated to an intimate reveal from someone who harbored poignant memories.
Things went all the way left when King introduced the highly-anticipated segment that was meant to forcefully query a visibly pained interviewee, who may or may not have been briefed beforehand about the plotted indecency.
Leslie was adamant about her knowledge of Bryant’s character, and his consistency as a superstar, who didn’t inhabit the stereotypes that are readily attributed to his equally stationed counterparts.
But Gayle King needed to go that extra mile to fulfill the quota, despite her obvious discomfort during that particular line of questioning that sadly went too far, too soon.
Things got ugly after that clip was quickly passed around. Famous critics like Snoop Dogg, who was still reeling from the brutal loss of both Bryant and his daughter, didn’t waste any time recording resentments over King’s blatant disregard for the fragile temperament of bereaved family members.
The revered rapper’s uncensored video dominated the media circuit and produced yet another controversy, that highlighted the practiced mistreatment of Black women in ways that non-Black women rarely experience.
Snoop sent out the first apology, that didn’t quite work as well as the follow up, where he admitted that “two wrongs don’t make a right.” And thanks to a much-needed discussion with his mama, he was willing to drastically revise his poorly worded statement in order to demonstrate his non-threatening stance.
Let’s be clear, the fact that Gayle King was frightened to the core, as attested by her best pal, Oprah, based on the violent response to her badly timed, and misguided interview is absolutely atrocious.
If history has taught anything, it’s how violence never leads to positive or progressive results.
King graciously accepted Snoop Dogg’s sincere apology, and mentioned the burden of being a journalist, who is tasked with hunting for the truth, with the realization that grave mistakes can be made in the process.
“As a journalist, it is sometimes challenging to balance doing my job with the emotions and feelings during difficult times.” “I don’t always get it perfect but I’m constantly striving to do it with compassion and integrity.”
Unfortunately, she didn’t rescind her problematic explanation about how CBS had thrown her under the bus, by sleekly publishing the damning clip, that attracted winning traffic numbers, thanks to the inflamed conversation that had been inappropriately unleashed, way before we even knew that Gianna Bryant died with her father.
No formal apology has been issued to Vanessa Bryant and her family, on behalf of CBS and their staple anchor.
This a strong indication that the level of vitriol that permeated the coverage of a notable death, that was more unbearable due to the inclusion of his kid, and other kids, has been endorsed as the preferred template moving forward.
We are willing to vigorously debate every angle of this divisive news story except the main component that we can’t afford to grossly neglect.
When are we going to tackle the legitimacy of journalistic integrity or the lack thereof?
When do we finally decide to thoroughly dissect the outright decay of an ailing industry, that traitorously blended with less-respected outlets, to inflict pain and suffering on innocents, who are trampled in the name of trends and ratings?
From the daily assault, courtesy of tabloid staples like TMZ, Daily Mail, etc, to the more “honorable” approach by reputable media brands, that are able to get away with deplorable behavior under the guise of the “integrity” that has been criminally redefined.
Ever since “going viral” became the unwavering pursuit of individuals, and organizations, that were formed to be trusted truth-tellers with the required dosage of humane traits, we’ve been privy to the woeful deterioration of the esteemed pillars that fought off any threat, crossing the line.
This steak of awfulness that plays to the tune of how “anything goes,” is inevitably ruining the pride of human relations. We are no longer qualified to deliver the complexities of our experiences with the delicacies that reassure validity of heartbeats.
This terrain of functional dysfunction is ruining lives.
The saddest part has to be the lack of guidance from veterans of this seasoned sport, who prefer to occupy the sidelines of nonchalance without providing the restorative tools to combat this deadly virus.
When Oprah shed tears for her friend, her pain was palatable, but it would’ve been amazing if she had shared how and why CBS and Gayle King failed to showcase the fundamentals of journalism, when it comes to seeking out the answers without surrendering to the biles of salaciousness.
We are embodying the pits of hell in this era of nationally syndicated disorder and lawlessness. The cemented codes of journalistic integrity have been righteously discarded, and nobody wants to call out the shit because of the risks to career, blue checks, and brand endorsements.
This unmanageable crisis can’t go on for much longer.
At some point we have to call things to order, Maybe the younger generation will suffice. Perhaps older folks are too disillusioned to fumigate the pests, who are defacing what we always believed to be true.
Either way, the debates that end with curses and the mechanisms that “mute” and “block” what we refuse to honestly recognize, regardless of egos, will be our undoing.
We like to believe we’re better than we really are, but now is not the time for fantasies.
Integrity. How do we get that back?