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How the Media Botched the Kobe Bryant Tragedy


On Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, the world was rocked by the news that basketball legend, Kobe Bryant, had tragically passed away. It was reported that one of his daughters was also killed in a helicopter accident. News stations went into crisis mode covering the story. After the accident, the public is now questioning the decisions that were made by the outlets to rush and report the loss of one of the world's most well-known athletes. In an article by The Washington Post Margaret Sullivan points out that many people know that most breaking news can be inaccurate, but Bryant's passing was handled poorly. The best example of this is when TMZ broke the news. TMZ has been criticized for how they broke the news. Criticisms were especially given by the Los Angeles law enforcement for breaking the news before family members could be notified. Some people did not even believe that Bryant had passed until it was confirmed by more “reputable” news organizations such as ESPN. According to Poynter, ESPN gave the best coverage with the exception of the first broadcast. Instead of shifting away from the NFL Pro Bowl, one of the announcers broke the news of Bryant’s passing. This is now being considered a bad public relations decision. Audiences were enraged that ESPN did not choose to cut the broadcast to break the news using ESPN reporters. They soon recovered and gave the most meaningful coverage of Bryant’s life and details of his death by interviewing Spike Lee and Gary Payton. Another angle that the media outlet had to consider was Bryant’s rape accusation suit in 2001. This was laid to rest in 2001, and Bryant lived an admirable life after the case was finalized, but should organizations add these details to give a complete story of his life? News organizations faced ethical dilemmas. In the case of Bryant’s tragic passing, some decisions were made that caused a negative spiraling effect; resulting in fake news and social media trolls. Fans of Kobe Bryant were saddened by his death but enraged with the way it was presented. Even with all the poorly facilitated messaging, this has not stopped fans from honoring the memory of Bryant. Rebekah Corwin is a junior from New Albany, double majoring in public relations and psychology. Corwin is an associate with Fifth Street Communications®, a student-run public relations agency at Anderson University.

fsc@anderson.edu | Anderson University (IN)

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