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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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Lovers & Friends Festival Line-Up Generates Confusion and Doubt After Artists Deny Involvement

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  • The newly announced Lovers & Friends music festival has caused online confusion and controversy because some of the artists included in the lineup said they were not participating. 
  • Lil Kim called the festival fake in a now-deleted Instagram story and Mase asked for his name to be removed from the list.
  • Both T-Pain and Megan Thee Stallion were also listed on the lineup, but already have other performances booked on that day.
  • Usher and Lauryn Hill, who are both headlining acts, shared the festival on their social media pages.
  • Snoop Dogg, a promoter for the festival, made a video reaching out to Lil Kim, asking to resolve the confusion while also saying every other act was confirmed. 

Controversy Around Festival

An upcoming music festival in Los Angeles has caused confusion among fans after artists like Lil Kim, who were announced in the lineup, said they would not be attending. 

Lauryn Hill, Usher, Ludacris, Lil Jon, and TLC are set to headline the Lovers & Friends Festival on May 9. The event is being organized by Goldenvoice, the company behind festivals like Coachella and Stagecoach. The festival’s lineup also includes Nelly, Sean Paul, T-Pain, Megan Thee Stallion, Ja Rule, Lil Kim, Trina, Mase, Twista, and others.

When the festival was announced on Tuesday, many fans were excited to see this mix of nostalgic ’90s and early aughts performers along with some of today’s chart-toppers. Some of the artists, however, indicated that they were no involved with Lovers & Friends.

“This is SO FAKE! I am not a part of this,” Lil Kim wrote on her Instagram story, with the text covering a screenshot of the lineup. She has since deleted it from her page. 

A representative for Trina’s management team also tweeted that she was never contacted by a booking agent for the festival. She has since reached out via a contact email. 

Other artists have commented on posts about the Lovers & Friends fest.

“Best wishes on this show but pls take my name off this flyer,” Mase wrote in a now-removed comment on Lovers & Friends’ post.

Screenshot via Twitter: @DJHeatDC

“AIN’T NO DEPOSIT HIT MY ACCOUNT FOR THIS SHOW,” Twista wrote on the same post. In a later comment, it seemed his issue had been resolved as he said he was now “locked and loaded” to play his hits.

Screenshot via Twitter: @DJHeatDC
Screenshot via Twitter: @DJHeatDC

Others also pointed out potential conflicts for the timing of this festival. Megan Thee Stallion is already booked for Broccoli City, a festival in Washington DC that same day. T-Pain is in a similar situation, performing at the Rolling Loud festival in Miami on May 9. Broccoli City tweeted that Megan Thee Stallion would be playing both, but later deleted that post, so it is still unclear if that is actually her plan. 

Others also noted that the venue’s website has yet to list Lovers & Friends as an upcoming event. 

Confusion Spreads

The announcement was at first met with enthusiasm, and many thought the lineup was fire. But because these comments caused so much confusion, some thought it looked more like fyre.

Many called it fake, and others compared it to the infamous Fyre Festival, which gained notoriety for touting big names and a glamorous setting, only to prove to be a scam and disaster. 

Responses to Confusion

There were some responses to the various confusions surrounding this. Snoop Dogg, a promoter for the event, posted an Instagram video addressing the situation. In it, he defended the validity of the festival and specifically called out Lil Kim. 

“Lil Kim, get at me on a DM so we can get at you about this money,” he said to the camera. “We was talking to some of your peoples, or we thought we were talking to some of your peoples. Get at me on a DM so we can try to get you this money, see if you with this thing or not.” 

“But as far as everyone else on this show, 100% confirmed,” he added. 

The founder of music collective Soulection, which is also participating in Lovers & Friend,s tweeted a thread confirming their involvement. 

“Everything we get behind is always official and locked in,” they wrote. 

The presale for the event is set to start Thursday. Ticket prices start at $145, with the highest VIP package going up to $450. On the Lovers & Friends website, it says the “lineup and set times are subject to change without notice.”

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Billboard) (Complex)

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Caroline Flack’s Death Sparks “Be Kind” Campaign and Media Conversation

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  • Former “Love Island” host Caroline Flack died by suicide in her London apartment on Saturday. 
  • Flack was awaiting trial for alleged assault charges, a legal process that was unfolding in the public eye.
  • The world has responded with tributes and mourning, as well as condemnation for media outlets and social media trolls who aggravated Flack prior to her death. 
  • The message to “be kinder” has gained traction in the wake of the tragedy.

Tragic Death

When news of TV personality Caroline Flack’s death broke over the weekend, reactions ranged from tributes and mourning to anger and speculation over what might have led to her suicide.

Flack, who formerly hosted the popular reality TV show “Love Island,” died by suicide in her London apartment on Saturday. She was 40 years old. 

Flack had been in the midst of a public legal ordeal, as she was awaiting trial for allegedly assaulting her boyfriend, Lewis Burton. She was arrested in December when police were called to their apartment for a domestic incident, but she was released on bail awaiting her trial scheduled for March.  

Within a week of her assault charges, Flack stepped down from her position on “Love Island” so as “not [to] detract attention” from the show. 

“There have been a significant number of media reports and allegations in regard to my personal life,” she wrote in a statement on Instagram. “While matters were not as have been reported, I am committed to cooperating with the appropriate authorities and I can’t comment further on these matters until the legal process is over.”  

Following her Dec. 23 court appearance, Flack posted a message alluding to mental health struggles stemming from the publicity of her legal ongoings.

“This kind of scrutiny and speculation is a lot to take on for one person to take on their own,” she wrote on Instagram. “I’m a human being at the end of the day.”

//www.instagram.com/embed.js

Push for Change

The news of Flack’s death has yet again drawn closer attention to the way that public figures are harassed by both the press and people across social media. Some are implying that it was this unfair treatment that pushed Flack to take her own life.

There has been public outcry against infamous British tabloids that extensively covered Flack’s legal charges, with The Sun even previously posting a headline calling her “Caroline Whack.” An online petition calling for “new and stricter laws around safeguarding celebrities and people in the public eye” gained over 549,000 signatures by Tuesday morning. 

Another petition was created to urge social media platforms to make online abuse illegal and has gained over 142,000 signatures. The hashtag #CarolinesLaw was trending over the weekend urging these sentiments. 

Even politicians have weighed in. On Monday, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Boris Johnson told BBC, “The industry must continue their efforts to go further. We expect them to have robust processes in place for removing content breaching their acceptable use policies.”

Russell Brand also blamed the public scrutiny of Flack for her untimely death, comparing it to that of Amy Winehouse.  

“I am angry and sad that Caroline Flack found herself in that place,” he wrote in a post on his website

“I am angry because I have watched this play out before with vulnerable people in the public eye and I would like to slay with some righteous sword the salacious, foaming, incessant poking, trolling judgment that chased her to the grave,” he added.

At the end of his post, Brand wrote that he hoped for a better future.

“Our best hope is to build relationships and communities based on kindness, forgiveness and compassion, not easy values to maintain given the complexity within us and without us but Caroline’s death shows us that the alternative is just too sad to bear,” he wrote.

“Be Kinder”

Aligned with Brand’s words, the message that has been repeated over and over following Flack’s death is to “be kinder” to each other.

Iain Stirling, the Scottish commentator on “Love Island,” gave an emotional tribute to Flack during Monday night’s episode with this message.

“We are all absolutely devastated by the tragic news that Caroline, a much-loved member of our Love Island family, has passed away,” he said. “Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this dreadful time.”

“My only hope is that we can all try and be kinder, always show love, and listen to one another,” Stirling added.   

Global fashion brand In The Style created t-shirts branded with the same message that Flack shared in one of her final Instagram posts in December: “In a world where you can be anything… be kind.” All the proceeds from the shirts are being donated to Samaritans, a charity that supports people with mental health struggles and suicidal thoughts. More than £100,000 has already been raised, according to the brand.

“In light of recent tragic events and recognizing ongoing mental health challenges faced by so many, we feel it’s so important as a brand to use our platform to raise further awareness to mental health and the impact surrounding this,” In The Style said.

View this post on Instagram

In light of recent tragic events and the ongoing mental health battles faced by so many we feel it’s so important as a brand to use our platform to raise further awareness to mental health and the impacts surrounding this. You honestly NEVER know what goes on behind closed doors and being kind costs nothing. We have created a ‘Be Kind’ tee and will be donating 100% of ALL profits to @samaritanscharity – They are a charity on hand 24/7 to support people who are suffering with mental health and suicidal thoughts. We want to be very clear that as a business In The Style will make no money whatsoever, we have also waved all delivery charges for purchases on the tee as this is solely to raise money and awareness for a very worthy charity and hopefully in light of such devastating news, we can all learn a very valuable lesson that in a world where we can be anything… be kind. ❤️

A post shared by In The Style (@inthestyle) on Feb 17, 2020 at 10:34am PST

//www.instagram.com/embed.js

Fans have echoed the message across social media.

See what others are saying:(The New York Times) (BBC) (CNN)

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Fans Defend Jim Carrey After “Unacceptable” Remark to Female Reporter

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  • When asked by a female reporter if he still had anything left on his bucket list, actor Jim Carrey said: “Just you. That’s it. It’s all done now.”
  • Some blasted Carrey for what they felt was a sexual remark, calling it “unacceptable” and “inappropriate.”
  • Meanwhile, fans suggested that the comment was not intended to be sexual but was instead referencing the interview itself as his final bucket list achievement. 

Bucket List Question 

Jim Carrey is facing backlash over a remark he made to a female journalist that many found inappropriate, but fans are quickly coming to the actor’s defense online.

Reporter Charlotte Long, from UK’s Heat magazine, sat down with the 58-year-old comedian during a press junket for his new animated film, “Sonic the Hedgehog.”

During her interview, Long asks Carrey,  “In the film, Sonic has a bucket list. I was wondering, after all you’ve done in your career and in your life, is there anything still left on your bucket list?”

“Just you,” Carrey responds. “Oh,” says Long, taken aback by the comment. She laughs before adding, “Wow.”

“That’s it. It’s all done now,” Carrey says to which Long replies with, “I don’t know what to say to that.” 

“Just own it,” Carrey continues.  “Okay, I’m owning it now,” Long says. 

Comment Sparks Outrage 

Long moves forward with her other questions as the pair laughs off the moment. But when she later posted the interview on Twitter, many were shocked and upset by Carrey’s remark, which they interpreted as a sexual comment.

“Lost respect for him today. This is really unacceptable,” one Twitter user said before applauding Long for how she handled it. 

Others called his comment “totally inappropriate” and labeled him a “massive sleazebag.” 

https://twitter.com/ChristinaAllDay/status/1227783036663717889?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1227783036663717889&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.insider.com%2Fjim-carrey-tells-heat-reporter-shes-the-only-thing-left-to-do-on-his-bucket-list-2020-2

Fans Defend Carrey 

But many of the comedian’s fans jumped to his defense. “He made a joke, joke didn’t land. Everyone is so offended about everything. If a female comedian said that about someone we’d all laugh. The hypocrisy is ridiculous,” one Twitter user said. 

“Cue all the heroes acting offended fr the poor woman who was clearly NOT offended.” another added.

Meanwhile, others suggested that his comment is being completely misinterpreted. Instead, many feel Carrey was referencing the interview itself as his final bucket list achievement. 

Long eventually changed her Twitter account to private and neither she nor Carrey have commented on the backlash. 

See what others are saying: (Insider) (Fox News) (EOnline

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