By Haley Bartlett, Editor-in-Chief–
Where were you when Kobe Bryant died, and how did you receive the news? Those are two questions mostly everyone can answer, but more importantly, how did his family find out.
The news of the tragic accident was not only devastating to hearts across the globe, but also was a whirl of different sources leaking different information. TMZ in particular is the outlet that scooped the story first, but it is facing severe backlash from being the source that notified the families of each victim and not the officers on the case.
With this very public loss, many have begun to criticize the media for how they handle investigations and the certain amount of respect or lack thereof that has been present. As a student reporter who has covered a fair share of sensitive topics, I recognize that there is a certain level of respect and sensitivity needed for the job.
Not only that, but also there is a level of common sense that a reporter has to have when dealing with stories in relation to an investigation, regardless of if that person is a public figure or not. For TMZ to have been the source of the news for the families was truly appalling, and to make matters worse, they got a lot of their information wrong by jumping the gun without confirmation of details.
Elisa Myzal, communications coordinator for the Chattanooga Police Department, talked with me about how the biggest struggle between officers and the media is getting the media to understand that the reporting procedures amongst the two parties are very different.
“It takes a long time to gather evidence and go through the investigation process, and [the media’s] timeline is much shorter than ours so they get impatient,” she said.
Myzal said that for the most part, the department has a good relationship with local media sources but that sometimes problems have risen and investigations have been hindered.
There’s a lot of steps that go into a serious accident such as Bryant’s that many don’t know or understand unless they work in that field. Myzal said that one of the biggest risks is causing a sense of fear within the families of the victim(s).
“A lot of times when this happens, it puts stress and fear on the families who are confused on a situation they didn’t know happened to begin with,” she said.
As a reporter, I completely understand wanting to be the one to break news and the importance of that, but sometimes the media needs to take a step back and regain that humanity that motivated the career choice in the first place.