Illustration by Lillie Busch

The unexpected loss of Kobe Bryant on Jan. 26 was shocking, but what was more shocking was the media’s poor handling of the situation.

When a story breaks, all the news sites want to get the available information out as soon as they can even if it means not waiting to make sure the immediate facts of the event are correct.  The media use to take a wait and see approach when it came to breaking news stories, but now, it’s about being quick and instantaneous.

It’s expected that a site like TMZ would get some of the facts wrong, but when legit outlets were doing the same, it just created confusion.  An article published by The Boston Globe highlighted the various inaccuracies put forth by news sources in the immediate announcement of Kobe’s death.

Another problem that can arise from celebrity deaths is conspiracy theories. Bryant’s death led to fervor speculation amongst crackpots over what happened.

This cycle of false facts and lies interfering with the truth is a trend we think would disappear since it’s the start of a new decade, but one can only wonder if the problem will get worse.  Society thrives on gossip about famous individuals, living or dead. While such discussions used to be relegated to magazines at the supermarket checkout, it is now something we see in our day to day lives.

The internet and social media have changed people’s perception of news.  While many still search for honesty and accuracy, there are just as many who rely on speculation, lies and their own opinion, which they fluff out as supposed news content.

As memorials to Kobe Bryant continue on, there will be some who question whether he deserves such treatment, given his arrest in 2003, followed by an acquittal two years later.  To me, whether a person is remembered more for the good than the bad depends on the severity of the stuff he or she did.

O.J. Simpson might be out of prison and on social media, but that won’t stop people from associating him as a criminal rather than a famous football player-turned-actor.  Similarly, while Michael Jackson is still revered even long after his death, some still question whether or not the accusations slated against him were true.We like to hold celebrities on a pedestal, and if they mess up, we either forgive and forget or never forget.  

Regardless, when death happens, journalists need to do their job and explain how and why said individual passed away and steer clear of misinformation, gossip and similar vitriol.