On January 26, a helicopter crash took the life of Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant and seven other passengers that were on board. Information on Kobe Bryant’s death spread like wildfire, but what had caused controversy was the fact that reporters and outlets were spreading fake news with unreliable information.
An example of this is ABC New’s Matt Gutman, who was in a rush to get the story out, reported that Bryant’s four daughters were aboard alongside Kobe during the crash when, in reality, Gianna was the only daughter aboard when the helicopter went down.
“I think it was definitely disrespectful to Kobe as a whole, his family just to try to say unconfirmed news without having any sort of conflict, to see news without any sort of confirmation,” said senior Zoraiz Hashmi, a huge Kobe fan, “like any sort of like real source it’s just put it out there just for clicks and money.”
Another mistake that initiated a slew of internet anger was the showing of the BBC video clip of Lebron James instead of Kobe Bryant.
British lawmaker David Lammy publicly criticized in a tweet that: “Kobe Bryant and LeBron James don’t even look similar. If the BBC hired more black producers and editors, appalling mistakes like this simply would not happen.”
According to Zoraiz, spreading news like that will have a negative impact on others and because of this, it’s important to make sure that every detail is confirmed since there can be serious consequences.
In addition, there is also criticism toward TMZ who dropped the news before Kobe’s family knew about the accident, forcing the Los Angeles authorities to explain why they had not released the identities of the other seven victims of the crash.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva explained in a press conference that, “It would be extremely disrespectful to understand that your loved one … perished and you learn about it from TMZ,” Villanueva said. “That is just wholly inappropriate.”
Kobe’s fans were bothered by the situation, thinking TMZ’s actions were disrespectful by releasing information of the incident without Kobe’s family being informed beforehand.
“I think the media should not be allowed to release similar tragedies unless the family members were informed, at a very minimum,” said Maria Macias, senior Lizane Salazar’s mom who is a huge Lakers fan. “Ethics must be a driving force, not merely ratings.”
Along with those false claims, the media also recalled Kobe’s accusations of rape held against him in 2003, Since then, the accusations have been dropped. Many critics of the media stated that bringing up this claim so quickly after Kobe’s death was inappropriate.
“I don’t think this was respectful at all and if they felt it was necessary to bring those accusations up then they should bring up everything he’s done for women and women’s sports in general since,” said Lakers fans Instagram account administrator Noah Liebman. “He’s one of the most supportive public figures of the WNBA and he coaches his daughter’s team because he loves it so much.”
Adding to the fake news controversy, a Fox reporter on social media falsely claimed that Bryant’s teammate was also killed in the helicopter crash. Although the rumor had no legitimate evidence to back up its claims, many agreed that it was disrespectful to just report something like that on Twitter.
“I think that’s disrespectful because you can’t speculate who’s on the helicopter and who’s not until you fully recover or if you have actual evidence of it,” said junior Majed Jesri. “People are just going to be saying random things about it.”