There’s no way to downplay the absolute horror that unfolded this past Sunday, as the tragic news began to rapidly circulate. Iconic sportsman and Oscar-winner, Kobe Bryant, his beloved 13-year-old daughter and burgeoning basketball star, Gianna, and seven other victims, including the pilot; all perished in a helicopter crash.
We remember exactly where we were when “breaking news” hit hard.
Back in the day when sense and sensibility was still a thing, we only had the radio and television has carriers of newsworthy content. And through those mediums, each item had the dignified delivery that was typically warranted for such events.
When notable figures were confirmed as deceased, we heard about it, and those announcements were made without bias and with the accuracy that didn’t have to push away the loud buzz of misinformation.
Those memorable moments were both sobering and weighty, and the background of the dearly departed was presented with the official stamp of what it means to spend time on earth with accumulated miles, that depict an array of episodic clips.
The legends, notorious serial killers, heads of state, controversial movie stars, etc., were feted with the roster of accomplishments and rap sheets, that dutifully applied. Circumstances of their demise had to be handled with care because of the glaring lenses that demanded professionalism and the homage to verified details.
But in 2020, the wrath of technology and the approved recklessness of so-called reporters, who are paid to maximize the presumed training that’s rarely showcased, has catapulted a frightening era of “breaking news” that’s sadly breaking a lot of hearts.
What transpired in the immediate hours after Kobe Bryant’s death was confirmed can only be categorized as catastrophic.
When you listen to those directly affected by Bryant’s death, tearfully describe those awful moments of utter disbelief, you will notice the commonality in their gut-wrenching accounts.
It replicates how most of us were grappling with the stream of updates that prematurely unleashed hashtags attached to the wrong names, and the brutal ushering of panic mode, as we contemplated just how bad things were going to get.
Retired basketball star and former Lakers teammate, Rick Fox, who knew the Bryant family well, was understandably in the midst of his own immense grief, when he was overwhelmed with the additional blow of being the unfortunate victim of fake news of the worst kind.
And while that was playing out, social media became a battlefield of warring forces, as opposite sides clashed over whether or not it was appropriate to do a deep-dive into the infamous rape case that was being reactivated, during the blinding chaos of figuring out the identities of the those who died alongside Bryant.
Even worse than that mess was the terrifying notion that Vanessa Bryant had initially learned about her famous husband’s demise courtesy of tabloid staple, TMZ, that evidently broke the news first, while more respectable organizations like CNN, maintained desired restraint.
And if you think that’s unfathomable, please make room for the ultimate shit fest performed by an ABC reporter who has since been suspended, Matt Gutman. The seasoned newsman, inconceivably reported that four of Bryant’s daughters were on board the doomed helicopter.
Gutman later apologized for his callousness by confirming that only one of the four girls died was with her father when the accident occurred. But the damage was already exacted. You can’t walk back an unforgivable act of rashness when you’re dealing with life and death scenarios.
But why was this unbearably sorrowful incident so poorly managed, across the board?
My assessment clings to the theory of how the traitorous mechanisms of social media inevitably collides with the media, producing the violent storm of unhealthy competition.
It stems from the addictiveness of demanding unyielding attention at all costs and without the humanness that should intervene when actual lives are at stake.
All our hearts broke when we heard Kobe Bryant was dead, it broke even more when we found out who died with him. We were completely broken when we discovered that seven other victims suffered the same fate.
But can you dare to imagine what the families were going through as the shuffling of fake news made appearances in places that are supposedly structured to avoid those harrowing instances, when being the bearer of bad news takes a dire turn.
Some years ago, I mistakenly gave Oscar nominations to actress Amy Adams and actor Tom Hanks, and the PR nightmare caused me to break down into bits as I contemplated the repercussions of destroying ABC’s stellar reputation.
But I would much rather fuck up a list of prominent names on behalf of a revered institution, than release information that’s not only factually wrong, but also detrimental to the emotional state of those who cannot afford to accommodate such a costly error.
Breaking news has evolved into a dangerous tool that mercilessly attacks the public with an avalanche of early developments that haven’t been vetted or approved.
The goal is to be the first outlet to spread the virus, and if it’s not even close to the truth, the good news is that it can be readily revised.
But what about the victims of false reporting, who aren’t in a position to redeem themselves due to their untimely exit from this earth, or their loved ones, who have to be burdened with heavier baggage, thanks to the potency of breaking news?
There’s no solution to a problem that nobody in the industry or Silicon Valley is in the least bit interested in solving.
So, I guess more hearts will break, as ended suspensions bring back the gratified evil doers.