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Media Slammed for Poor Judgement and Misreporting in Coverage of Kobe Bryant’s Death

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  • NBA superstar Kobe Bryant died at the age of 41 Sunday morning, alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others who were killed in a Calabasas, California helicopter crash.
  • L.A. authorities specifically condemned TMZ for breaking the story before the victims’ families had been notified.
  • Other outlets faced public criticism for their errors, like ABC News which incorrectly said all four of Bryant’s children had died, ESPN which reported that one of the victims was retired NBA player Rick Fox, and the BBC which mistakenly used footage of Lebron James instead of Bryant.
  • An MSNBC reporter also faced backlash for appearing to say the n-word when covering the story, though she later apologized and explained that she stuttered on-air, combining the names of the Knicks and the Lakers to say “Nakers.”

TMZ Reports Kobe Bryant’s Death

Minutes after Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others died in a helicopter crash, TMZ was already reporting the death of Kobe Bryant.

TMZ’s coverage—along with coverage by various other outlets—sparked a national debate over how to handle celebrity deaths, especially as they break. 

Bryant’s death was first reported by TMZ before authorities were able to fully contact the victims’ next of kin. From there, the story propagated on other major media outlets like ABC, the BBC, and ESPN.

At a press conference Sunday, Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva criticized TMZ directly for leaking the information so soon. 

“There is wide speculation of who the identities are,” he said, “however, it would be entirely inappropriate to identify anyone by name until the coroner has made the identification through their very deliberative process, and they’ve made notifications to next-of-kin. And it would be extremely disrespectful to understand that your loved one was perished and that you learned about it from TMZ. That is just wholly inappropriate, so we’re not going to be going there.”

Later, Los Angeles Undersheriff Tim Murakami issued a similar statement on Twitter, though he stopped short of naming TMZ directly.

“I am saddened that I was gathering facts as a media outlet reported the Kobe had passed,” Murakami said. “I understand getting the scoop but please allow us time to make personal notifications to their loved ones. It’s very cold to hear of the loss via media. Breaks my heart.”

Bryant is not the first celebrity death TMZ has broken, a trait the celebrity gossip site is known for. In 2009, it first reported that Michael Jackson had died. In 2012, it broke the story that Whitney Houston had died and in 2016, it also broke the news of Prince’s death.

On social media, the hashtag #BoycottTMZ trended, with many users saying the site exploited his death to break the story.

ABC, ESPN, and BBC Slammed

TMZ isn’t the only news organization being criticized for its coverage of Kobe’s death. In the first few hours following Bryant’s death, reports were highly varied.

During early coverage, ABC News reporter Matt Gutman reported that it was believed all four of Kobe’s daughters were aboard the helicopter and had been killed. That then led to a number of ABC affiliates reporting the same information. In reality, neither Bryant’s wife Vanessa nor his other three daughters were on the helicopter.

At the same time, you had ESPN reported that one of the victims was Rick Fox, a former player for the Boston Celtics and L.A. Lakers. Fox, however, was not on the flight and was later confirmed alive by an NBA reporter on Sunday. 

The BBC also caught major criticism during its airing of an obituary segment for Bryant where it mistakenly used footage of Lebron James, who is still very much alive. That footage included direct shots of James’ “23” jersey with his name on the back. 

MSNBC Anchor and Buttigieg Criticized

MSNBC’s Alison Morris—while not criticized for misreporting—was accused of dropping the n-word when talking about Bryant’s death. 

Morris later took to Twitter to clarify her comment, which said she was a stutter between trying to say “Knicks” and “Lakers.”

“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.”

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg also came under fire for insinuating Bryant was a football player while on Fox News.

“Our lives are often touched by people we never even meet, and there are millions of people, not just in Los Angeles but around the world,” Buttigieg said. “Right now, mourning because they were inspired by what he did he did on the field, what he meant off the field.”

However, in an earlier interview, Buttigieg used the term “court.” On Twitter, he also used the term “court.”

What Do We Know So Far?

While a preliminary report likely won’t be published for another month and a full report likely won’t come until next year, many details surrounding the crash are still being learned. 

During their initial reports Sunday morning, many media outlets said five people—including Bryant and his daughter—had been killed; however, Sheriff Villaneuva later revealed that nine people had been aboard the aircraft when it went down. 

“There were no survivors,” he said. “We have a manifest that indicates that there was nine people onboard the aircraft. The pilot plus eight individuals.”

Victims include Bryant, his daughter, college baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa, elementary school basketball coach Christina Mauser, a parent named Sarah Chester and her daughter Peyton, and pilot Ara Zobayan.

The helicopter reportedly took off from John Wayne Airport in Orange County just after 9 a.m. It passed over Boyle Heights and near Dodger stadium. It then circled Glendale, and it was on its way to Kobe’s Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks for a basketball game. Just before 10 a.m., the craft then crashed onto a hillside in Calabasas.

The helicopter itself was a Sikorsky S-76B model, which has been manufactured since the 1970s. Bryant specific helicopter had been in operation since 1991. It was outfitted with twin turboshaft engines and contained room for 12 passengers and two crew members. 

Bryant reportedly began using the helicopter as a way to beat L.A. traffic and spend more time with his children. Since his death, a clip of Bryant explaining his decision on The Corp has circulated on social media. 

Bryant was also known for offering his helicopter to help his teammates make doctors’ appointments.

What Will the Investigation Look Into?

As for the investigation, many Angelenos took notice of a thick fog encompassing the region Sunday morning; however, it is wholly unknown if this caused or even played into the helicopter’s crash. 

Despite that, on Sunday prior to the crash, L.A. police and the sheriff’s departments did deem the fog hazardous enough to ground their helicopters. Reports Monday morning indicated that Bryant’s pilot had given special permission to fly in the fog. 

Fog by itself does not mean that a pilot cannot fly a helicopter. Instead, helicopters need to be equipped with specialized instruments that help pilots fly in those conditions. If not using those instruments, a pilot would only be able to use what’s known as VFR — right, visual flight rules. Pilots can request special clearance in inclement conditions to use VFR if a pilot is rated high enough to not fly only by instruments.

According to the LATimes, an audio recording between the pilot and air traffic controllers suggests that indicates the helicopter was using VFR because the pilot told a controller he was “in VFR at 1,500″ feet. The newspaper, however, also noted that none of this has been confirmed yet. 

Regardless of whether or not fog was the culprit, it is expected to play a factor in the official investigation.

That investigation will also look into if there were mechanical problems aboard the helicopter, though it’s extremely rare for Sikorsky S-76B’s to experience twin-engine failure. From 2006-2016, the model saw the lowest number of fatal crashes among all of the major civilian helicopters in the country.

It is likely possible that both the weather and some form of mechanical failure took place, causing the chopper to plummet, but any official cause will likely not be known for some time. 

Fans and Friends Remember Kobe

Following news of Bryant’s death, many fans and friends mourned the loss of the NBA superstar, with many in L.A. saying he perfectly represented the spirit of the city. 

Perhaps one of the most memorable responses came from footage showing the Lakers returning to the city, where Lebron James can be visibly seen tearing up. The team reportedly learned about the crash on their flight back to LA. 

Chicago Bulls icon Michael Jordan also lamented the loss of Bryant. 

“Words can’t describe the pain I am feeling,” Jordan said. “I loved Kobe — he was like a little brother to me. We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force.”

Major politicians such as President Donald Trump and former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama also issued statements via Twitter. 

Throughout Sunday, many fans gathered around the Staples Center where the Lakers play. Bryant also saw more tributes at the Staples Center later that night when stars like Alicia Keys, Aerosmith, Lizzo, and Lil Nas X all honored him at the Grammys.

In Philadelphia, people have set up a memorial in front of the Kobe Bryant Gymnasium at Bryant’s high school.

At the same time, there have been multiple reports of fans rushing to the crash site to set up a memorial. The traffic became so heavy that authorities shut down roads leading to the hillside where the helicopter crashed after that traffic made it harder for emergency personnel to perform their jobs.

That disturbance also risked contaminating the crash site as investigators work to both preserve and examine the scene to determine what caused the helicopter to go down.

Bryant’s 2003 Rape Allegation

While millions mourn Bryant’s death, others have used this as an opportunity to reminded people of Bryant’s 2003 sexual assault allegation, when a then-19-year-old hotel employee accused him of raping her. That case was later dropped because the accuser refused to testify in court. The accuser then settled privately with Bryant.

“Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual,” Bryant admitted in 2004, “I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”

People like Evan Rachel Wood noted the tragedy of the situation but also refused to shy away from addressing the accusation.

“What has happened is tragic,” she said on Twitter. “I am heartbroken for Kobe’s family. He was a sports hero. He was also a rapist. And all of these truths can exist simultaneously.”

Additionally, Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez tweeted a Daily Beast link to a 2016 article titled: “Kobe Bryant’s Disturbing Rape Case.” Sonmez later tweeted that she had received over 10,000 abuse and death threats after posting the link.

Source: @feliciasonmez

As of Monday, her tweets on Bryant have all been deleted and she has reportedly been suspended by the Post.

However, many were frustrated by those bringing up the rape case at such a sensitive time, including Comedian Corrine Fisher, who offered her take on the matter. 

“MY REPLY WHEN YOU TELL ME KOBE IS A RAPIST: ‘I know. We all fucking know. You think I don’t know? I fucking know. Go away,’” she said on Twitter. “Welp, he’s dead at 41 AND his 13 yr old daughter is dead. They crashed in a helicopter & burst into flames. Is that the justice you wanted you monsters?”

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (The Los Angeles Times) (NBC News)

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Childish Gambino Sued for Alleged Copyright Infringement

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  • Florida rapper Kidd Wes filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in New York Thursday against Grammy award-winning artist Childish Gambino.
  • Kidd Wes claims Childish Gambino’s 2018 song “This Is America” plagiarized his 2016 song “Made in America,” arguing that the two songs have “nearly-identical unique rhythmic, lyrical, and thematic compositional and performance content.”
  • Kidd Wes’ lawyers said his client is seeking damages from profits for record sales, endorsements, and other income sources. 

Childish Gambino Faces Lawsuit

Grammy award-winning rapper Childish Gambino, AKA Donald Glover, is being sued for alleged copyright infringement by Florida rapper Kidd Wes.

Kidd Wes, whose real name is Emelike Nwosuocha, claims Glover’s 2018 song “This Is America” plagiarized his song “Made in America,” which came out in 2016.

According to Pitchfork, he filed a lawsuit in a New York federal court on Thursday arguing that “the substantial similarities between both songs include, but are not limited to, nearly-identical unique rhythmic, lyrical, and thematic compositional and performance content contained in the chorus—or ‘hook’—sections that are the centerpieces of both songs.”

Pitchfork reported that defendants in the suit include Glover, the song’s co-writer Young Thug, producer Lüdwig Goransson, Kobalt Music, RCA Records, Sony Music Entertainment, Young Stoner Life Publishing LLC, 300 Entertainment, Atlantic Records, Warner Music Group, Roc Nation, Universal Music Publishing Group, and Warner Chappell Music.

“This Is America” and its accompanying music video were praised for providing stark social commentary on America’s history with racism, inequality, and gun violence. In 2019, it won both Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the Grammy Awards, making it the first rap song to take home the prize in either of those top categories. The song has been streamed over 465 million times on Spotify and the music video has been viewed on YouTube over 773 million times.

Lawyers Argue Similarities Are “Beyond Coincidental”

The music video for “Made in America” has just over 415,000 views on YouTube. Nwosuocha has 12,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. While Nwosuocha may have a smaller platform than Glover, his lawyers claim it is no mistake that the two songs sound alike. 

“The similarities between the two pieces of music are beyond coincidental, and amounts to infringement as alleged in the complaint filed by our client, Emelike Nwosuocha, professionally known as Kidd Wes,” attorneys Imran H. Ansari and La’Shawn N. Thomas told Pitchfork. “Mr. Nwosuocha is confident in his claims, and simply seeks the credit and compensation he deserves for the unauthorized use of his music.” 

Nwosuocha is reportedly seeking damages from profit in roughly 43 instances, including record sales, ringtones, endorsements, and record masters.

Glover has not responded publicly to the lawsuit. This is not the first time he has been accused of plagiarism over the song “This Is America.” Previously, he was accused of taking inspiration from New York rapper Jase Harley’s song “American Pharaoh.” At the time, Harley said he did not want to take legal action. Glover’s manager also denied Glover stole from Harley’s work.

See what others are saying: (Pitchfork) (A.V. Club) (The Guardian)

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MrBeast Accused of Creating Toxic Workplace

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  • YouTuber MrBeast, who is known for his massive giveaways, was accused of fostering a toxic workplace in a Tuesday article by The New York Times. 
  • One former employee claimed he quit after a week because MrBeast had unreasonable demands and “nothing ever worked for him.”
  • Another, named Matt Turner, said he was berated almost every day and was often called a “phrase used to insult people with mental disabilities.” 
  • Turner previously posted several videos about his experience working for MrBeast. In one, he praised the YouTuber and thanked him for a fun experience, but in another, he painted a negative and hostile picture of MrBeast.

MrBeast Accused of Creating Toxic Workplace

YouTuber MrBeast was accused of creating a toxic workplace in a Tuesday article from The New York Times. 

Jimmy Donaldson, who goes by MrBeast online, is known for his massive giveaways and “stunt philanthropy” videos. He has gained a substantial following and as The Times, noted, is a huge influence for many young creators. 

However, former employees said that behind the scenes, Donaldson is a very different person. According to The Times, his corporate entities “have been rife with favoritism and bullying.”

Matt Turner, who was an editor for Donaldson between 2018 and 2019, said that he was berated “almost every day” and that Donaldson often called him by a “phrase used to insult people with mental disabilities,” which would leave him in tears. 

According to the report, Donaldson initially largely hired friends to work for him, but as his empire grew, so did his number of staffers. Turner told The Times that while those friends got to be in videos, he struggled to be acknowledged. 

“I was not to be credited for anything I did,” Turner said. “I’d ask for credit, he’d credit someone else.”

Another former staffer, Nate Anderson, said he worked for Donaldson for a week in 2018 before quitting because of what he described as unreasonable demands.

“Nothing ever worked for him,” he told The Times. “He always wanted it a certain way.”

When Anderson uploaded a video describing his experience, he was met with hateful messages and even death threats from Donaldson’s fans. Turner said the same happened to him when he posted videos and wrote about his experience on social media. 

The Times spoke to, 20-year-old Akash Rathod, a fan who found Donaldson’s silence regarding these complaints and the subsequent death threats from his followers troubling. 

“There needs to be more from Mr. Beast on the issues his fans are causing,” Rathod said. “It’s not enough just to make positive videos.”

Donaldson did not give a comment to The Times for their piece. A representative for him declined to talk about the workplace allegations and only acknowledged a part of the piece that briefly mentioned Donaldson’s past use of slurs and offensive jokes.

“When Jimmy was a teenager and was first starting out, he carelessly used, on more than one occasion, a gay slur,” the representative said. 

They added that he now “knows there is no excuse for homophobic rhetoric” and “has grown up and matured into someone that doesn’t speak like that.”

Former Employee’s Previous Remarks

Rogue Rocket reached out to Donaldson for comment. In response, MrBeast sent a clip that Turner previously posted where he discussed his work experience in a much brighter light. In that video, which has since been deleted but exists in reuploads, Turner referred to the gig as a “dream job” and recommended others work for Donaldson. 

“If you have the opportunity to get this job that I had, totally take it,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. It was basically just like a friendship. And going to work was a blast each and every day.” 

Turner then said his decision to part ways from the role was mutual, as the company knew he would not be in the job for the long haul. Turner said he was going to college, wanted to backpack across Asia, and was considering moving to Los Angeles eventually, so they decided to part ways. 

He also claimed that even after he was no longer working there, Donaldson, who had been paying for his rent while he worked for him, continued to pay for him to stay in his apartment and encouraged him to stay as long as he needed. Turner said he even continued to receive paychecks after he left the job for an unspecified period of time. 

“And that is basically funding my trip to backpack across Asia,” he explained. “He’s saying, ‘You don’t have to work for me, but I’ll still pay you. And because of that, I hope that lets you live in L.A., go to college, backpack Asia, whatever you want to do after this, I want to set you up for that.’” 

“If you’re watching this MrBeast, I fucking love you bro,” he continued. 

However, these are not the only remarks Turner has made about his experience working for Donaldson prior to the release of The New York Times report. He previously posted several tweets, which were later taken down, describing a hostile environment where he was “bullied” and “having mental breakdowns day after day.”

He also posted another video, which was deleted but has been partially reuploaded by other channels, where he said that he only posted positive remarks about Donaldson to “clout chase” because he was afraid of what would happen if he spoke ill of the YouTuber. He then painted a much more confrontational picture of Donaldson, telling a story where Donaldson allegedly wiped an entire project and cursed at him after being unhappy with an edit.

Taylor Laurenz, who wrote the article about Donaldson in The New York Times, told Insider that this story is reflective of a larger issue within creator culture. 

“For a large portion of Gen Z that doesn’t want to be creators themselves, working for a creator seems like an absolute dream job,” she said. “But we see time and time again that these creators have basically little to no management experiences and, behind the scenes, can create a really hostile, stressful environment.”

“Working for a 22-year-old YouTube star isn’t going to be the most professional work environment,” she added. “But if you are posturing yourself as a business leader or the next Elon Musk, you should think about the type of work culture you’re creating and what you are rewarding.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Insider) (Dexerto)

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Will Smith To Make Docuseries About Getting Fit After Saying He’s “In The Worst Shape” of His Life

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  • Will Smith announced on Tuesday that he will star in a YouTube Originals series called “Best Shape of My Life,” which will premiere in 2022 and follow the actor on a fitness and weight loss journey.
  • The news comes just a few days after Smith shared that he was in “the worst shape” of his life in an Instagram post that resonated with several people as many across the country struggle with pandemic weight gain.
  • “This is the body that carried me through an entire pandemic and countless days grazing thru the pantry,” Smith wrote in his announcement post on Instagram. “I love this body, but I wanna FEEL better… Hope it works!”

Will Smith to Star in YouTube Originals Docu-series

Just days after sharing that he is in the “worst shape” of his life, actor Will Smith announced on Tuesday that he will be starring in a YouTube Originals series called “Best Shape of My Life.”

His initial Instagram post revealing his weight gain resonated with many who praised him for being honest about his body changing during the pandemic. 

“You’re a real one for this,” YouTuber Casey Neistat wrote. 

“Fucking love it. That’s confidence,” Smith’s Suicide Squad co-star Joel Kinnaman added.

According to the show’s official description, “Best Shape of My Life” will follow “the story of Will Smith, looking up one day to find himself in middle age, rebuilding his body into the best shape of his life and getting his groove back along the way.” In it, he will challenge his physical abilities with the help of pro-athletes, scientists, other experts, and YouTube creators. 

The docuseries will air in six parts in 2022. It marks his second project with YouTube Originals, following his 2018 bungee-jumping stunt that raised money for charity to celebrate his 50th birthday. “Best Shape of My Life” is being produced by Westbrook Media, a company the Fresh Prince star launched with his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

Series Will Address Pandemic Weight Gain

“This is the body that carried me through an entire pandemic and countless days grazing thru the pantry,” Smith wrote on Instagram. “I love this body, but I wanna FEEL better”

“Imma get in the BEST SHAPE OF MY LIFE,” he continued. “Hope it works!”

Pandemic weight gain has been a common issue for people all over the world. According to Healthline, 61% of Americans said they gained weight as the world shuttered because of COVID-19.

See what others are saying: (Huff Post) (Entertainment Weekly) (Billboard)

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