Media errors, rumors, poor judgment run rampant in reporting of Kobe Bryant news
Sunday’s heartbreaking news about Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others dying in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California is among the most tragic sports stories we have covered. The news was nothing short of shocking, and it spread throughout the world instantaneously. Unfortunately, the confluence of widespread interest in the matter, uncertainty over what happened, and the irresponsible actions of some reporters, resulted in misinformation, rumors and inaccuracies spreading.
From the moment TMZ reported that Kobe Bryant had died in the helicopter crash, incorrect information spread, which is not unusual as a story of this magnitude unfolds. To start, TMZ wrote in its original report that Bryant was survived by wife Vanessa and his four daughters. This turned out to be incorrect, as we later learned that Bryant’s second-oldest daughter, Gianna, also died.
TMZ also said five people died in the crash. So did the LA County Sheriff’s office.
Avoid the area until further notice.
— LA County Sheriffs (@LASDHQ) January 26, 2020
The county sheriff’s office later told the public nine people died — the pilot and eight passengers.
Larry Brown Sports included both pieces of information in our original story — that Bryant was survived by his wife and daughters — and that five people died. We take responsibility for sharing this information that later turned out to be incorrect, though we believe both were trusted sources — especially an official authority like the county sheriff.
Another major issue was watching reporters trying to figure out in real-time who had died in the crash.
ABC reporter Matt Gutman said on live TV that all four of Kobe’s daughters were believed to be on the helicopter and dead.
This is absolutely horrific, ABC now saying all four of Kobe’s Children on board… pic.twitter.com/bSmh8yXVKv
— Matt Couch 🎙 (@RealMattCouch) January 26, 2020
Gutman did not state that as an official report, nor did he cite where the belief came from, and no other outlets confirmed the report at the time. Other outlets like TMZ and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski confirmed that only Gianna had died.
The story was of too great importance and Gutman was on too large of a stage to pass along something so significant in such a casual manner. But video from Gutman’s report spread throughout Twitter, causing many to believe all of Kobe’s daughters had died, multiplying the tragedy by tenfold.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter later said that Kobe’s three other daughters and wife Vanessa were NOT in the crash.
Then there was some rumor that former Laker Rick Fox was on the helicopter. That rumor did not appear to originate from any actual legitimate source, but for some reason began spreading on Twitter and had to be shot down. To confirm: Rick Fox did NOT die in the crash.
Beyond the misinformation that spread, there were just plain mistakes committed by some while on air.
MSNBC’s Alison Morris was talking about the Lakers and appeared to say the N-word in plural form instead of “Lakers” while speaking on air.
I’m watching MSNBC for Kobe coverage and check what I hear pic.twitter.com/lqZ8NC1xt7
— Curtis (@rumchampion) January 26, 2020
She later issued a clarification on Twitter.
Earlier today, while reporting on the tragic news of Kobe Bryant’s passing, I unfortunately stuttered on air, combining the names of the Knicks and the Lakers to say “Nakers.” Please know I did not & would NEVER use a racist term. I apologize for the confusion this caused.
— Alison Morris (@AlisonMorrisNOW) January 26, 2020
The British Broadcasting Company used footage of LeBron James rather than Kobe Bryant.
I genuinely cannot believe that the actual BBC News at 10 just did this pic.twitter.com/n6csMV9OOG
— Matthew Champion (@matthewchampion) January 26, 2020
In addition to the information, rumors, and inaccuracies, some outright displayed poor judgment.
Washington Post political reporter Felicia Sonmez decided this was the time to bring up Kobe Bryant’s rape case. Even after more than 26,000 accounts on Twitter told her now was not the time or place to bring up the rape case, she doubled and tripled down with more tweets that were met similar negative feedback. She finally deleted all four tweets after being ratio’d to the moon, but you can see them below, along with the ratio count.
Washington Post political reporter @feliciasonmez decided now would be a good time to bring up Kobe Bryant's rape case, ended up setting the record for biggest RATIO in Twitter history. And then she doubled and tripled down, lecturing others for responding negatively! pic.twitter.com/S45MFJDAsh
— Larry Brown (@LBSports) January 26, 2020
The rape case is part of Kobe Bryant’s story, but making it the sole focus of your coverage, as Sonmez did, is unfair, shows an agenda, and displays a lack of understanding and regard for everything else Bryant accomplished, what he meant to the world, and what his loved ones are going through.
More Larry Brown Sports coverage of Kobe Bryant’s death:
Other victims of the helicopter crash:
– John Altobelli, junior college baseball coach, also died in helicopter crash
– Christina Mauser, girls’ basketball coach, among the helicopter crash victims
Tributes to Kobe:
– Dallas Mavericks retire Kobe Bryant’s No. 24 jersey
– Video: Raptors, Spurs start game with amazing tribute to Kobe Bryant
– Shaq posts heartfelt tribute to Kobe Bryant
– Michael Jordan releases statement on death of ‘little brother’ Kobe Bryant
– Video: Doc Rivers breaks down crying talking about Kobe Bryant
– Phil Jackson calls Kobe Bryant ‘a chosen one’ in statement on his death
– NBA commissioner Adam Silver issues statement on death of Kobe Bryant
– Video: Dwyane Wade posts emotional message reacting to Kobe Bryant’s death
– Kendrick Perkins extends olive branch to Kevin Durant after Kobe Bryant’s death
– Video: Emotional Mike Breen sums up NBA world’s emotions about Kobe Bryant’s death
– Trae Young’s huge game was full of Kobe Bryant-related statistical coincidences
– Media errors, rumors, poor judgment run rampant in reporting of Kobe Bryant news
– Kobe Bryant checked in on Shaq’s son Shareef morning of helicopter crash
– No, Rick Fox did not die in helicopter crash that killed Kobe, Gianna Bryant
– Lakers fans start memorial to Kobe Bryant outside Staples Center
– Kobe Bryant’s last tweet was congratulating LeBron James on passing him
– Sports world stunned over Kobe Bryant news
– Kobe Bryant dies in helicopter crash – dead at 41