How did you find out about the death of one of sport’s greatest legends? For me, it was while I was cooking dinner and idly scrolling through my phone, waiting for the oven to heat up. I saw a screenshot of a TMZ Instagram story posted to Twitter. ‘KOBE BRYANT DEAD IN HELICOPTER CRASH’, it blared. I did what anyone else does in this day and age and sent it down my groupchat. I had no idea whether it was true, whether it was a malicious prank, or hack, or anything else. I just wanted to be the one to share it first.
As news spread across social media and screenshots turned into shots from the scene in Calabasas, the only certainty seemed to be that no one knew what was going on. Basketball fans screamed at ESPN to cancel their coverage of the Pro Bowl, and professional, blue-tick journalists incorrectly said on air that all four of Kobe’s children were on board: in short, it was a mess. An anchor even appeared to inadvertently call Kobe’s former team the N-word as she breathlessly tried to usher the news into the world.
I’m watching MSNBC for Kobe coverage and check what I hear pic.twitter.com/lqZ8NC1xt7
— Curtis (@rumchampion) January 26, 2020
The only constant in everyone’s rush was the urge to put their thoughts out there. They wanted to be a part of something viral that really didn’t involve them. Do correspondents consider tweeting ‘oh no no no’ above a death announcement an act of public service journalism? At best they are unnecessarily injecting themselves into a story.
Then there are the contrarians. The ones who can’t even let the bodies go cold before smashing out a ‘well actually, he was a rapist‘ post on their keyboard. Kobe Bryant’s legacy was a controversial one, and there were perhaps questions to be asked about his actions over the years. But who are you really serving besides yourself, when you find the first opportunity to gloat about someone’s death?
When every media outlet feels like they have to do everything as fast as they can, maybe the best among them are those that still take their time to get the story right. The ones that don’t feel the need to tweet out their SEO pieces on ‘Kobe Bryant net worth, was he married’ while the wreckage is still smoldering. The ones that don’t use footage of Lebron James when they really meant Kobe.
I genuinely cannot believe that the actual BBC News at 10 just did this pic.twitter.com/n6csMV9OOG
— Matthew Champion (@matthewchampion) January 26, 2020
Would it be so bad if we just waited for the story to become clear before losing our minds?