Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Choose life

When it comes to questions of life and death, as a rule, I always choose life. So, when it comes to questions of reporting on life and death, I always choose caution. Aside from the tremendous personal tragedy befalling Natasha Richardson and her family right now, there is an obviously smaller, but more insidious tragedy befalling our media. While all of the major, reliable news outlets – including The New York Times, CNN and The Washington Post – have exercised caution while reporting on the story of Natasha's skiing accident and subsequent injury, the chattering class has been quick to jump on the most grim and most salacious rumors swirling around her condition. Look, internet, “brain dead” is a hell of a term to use based on a whisper.

Reporting the news, despite what it may seem like many days while perusing the web, is not an elaborate game of telephone. It is based on facts and, when necessary, happily waits for them. And while it may, indeed and sadly, turn out to be the worst, I think the rush to blare “brain dead” across the internet has been disgusting. Time Out New York even had to retract an obituary it ran yesterday. It's headline read: “EXCLUSIVE: Time Out New York learns of actress's untimely death. She will be greatly missed.” Have we become so enamored with getting it first that we forgot the cardinal rule of getting it right? p.s. Death should never be a salivated-over, all caps “EXCLUSIVE.” p.p.s. You're gross.

The fact is, reports right now are conflicted as to her condition. So until her family or the hospital releases an official statement, that is the story. I will gladly wait for the truth while wishing for her full and speedy recover. And even if our worst fears are realized, I am all for holding off until that moment and letting the family handle what is clearly a terrible situation in peace without the vultures circling. If, and again I hope with all I have not, a time comes for tribute let us do it then. For now my heart and best wished go out to her family.

UPDATE 5:15 PM: Natasha's family has confirmed the worst. She passed away today from her injuries. She was 45. Words are not enough to express the sadness of this situation. May her family have time and space to deal with this terrible loss in private.

41 comments:

scribegrrrl said...

Thank you for being a beacon of standards in the bottom-feeding murk of the internet.

stringer3221@gmail.com said...

well said, ms snarker. it's been a ridiculous frenzy over this sad story ... right now, i'm going with the bbc, and waiting for something from the family, assuming they even want to tell us anything ...

RHEA said...

Well said, indeed. I'll be honest, I was upset/confused when last night AfterEllen had an article stating that she was brain dead, and commenting on how multiple news outlets were reporting this. A quick little investigating of my own was only able to find two outlets (Fox News and the New York Post) who were reporting this, and I've personally never considered the latter all that reliable (they just seem more tabloid-esque than anything). The AP, BBC, and New York Times were still reporting that she was critically injured, and while that's obviously still very bad, it's certainly much better than brain dead.

Perhaps the problem is that we (the readers) are too trusting at times. When I first read Sarah Warn's article on AE about Richardson being brain dead, I simply believed it. I took it at face value. It was only after reading numerous comments where people questioned the accuracy of that that I bothered to spend 5 minutes searching online myself.

We live in a culture of sensationalism where 'one upping' someone is the goal....being the first to put 'brain dead' in a headline achieves both goals.

Vikki said...

Beautifully said.

narcolepsy_slds said...

well said. just imagine how horrible it must be for the her family to read about her being brain dead - whatever her condition might be.
this was not really one of the finest hours of 'journalism' ...
and in general I'd be very cautious when it comes to brain injuries, what looks really bad might not be in the end and vice versa.

TheWeyrd1 said...

I'm glad I missed that "brain dead" story(s) and only saw that she was experiencing severe symptoms of what appears to be a concussion. I am holding on to that idea for now and assuming a nice recovery. Any other thought wave would be putting bad karma into her world.

ravaj said...

it was the red-tops that were spouting the scary stuff - the mail, mirror, sun, etc.

even knocked jade goody off the front pages (27-year-old reality show star about to die of cervical cancer who has been the headline for the last week or so).

utterly sickening.

the other thing that this story brings up for me is how completely vulnerable we are ... you may seemingly have a wonderful life and kaboom! something gets you.

so stop reading this and go find someone you love and hang out with them for a bit!

Anonymous said...

The frenzy has really sickened me.


Well said, Snarker!

jennifer from pittsburgh said...

Wonderfully stated, DS.

CLD said...

Thanks for this.

And that's a lovely photo you found of Natasha.

Anonymous said...

Brava, Dorothy. Among the many reasons why I'm hoping Natasha makes a full recovery is so that she can give these salacious idiots hell for what they've published and sent out over the net.

For the life of me, I don't get the drool over her condition and the rush to be the first to publish information. I have the highest regard for the Redgrave clan, whose members strive on get on with their work and live their lives out of the spotlight. They're entitled to their privacy at this time, and they certainly do not need the aggravation caused by this feeding frenzy.

I've had the privilege of seeing Natasha Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave on stage, and was very much looking forward to seeing them together next year in a revival of "A Little Night Music". No matter how remote this possibility may seem, I pray Natasha makes a full recovery so that her family, friends and fans can enjoy her presence once more.

invisigoth said...

Thank you.

inv

invisigoth said...

Thank you.

Pyewacket said...

'Have we become so enamored with getting it first that we forgot the cardinal rule of getting it right?'

I have seen this trend going on for awhile, the media has been spiralling down ever since the 24/7 news channels started requiring any old junk to fill the void once done with the real news items of the day.

Though the media will tell us they are only giving us what the general public wants. And to that I say, BS.

I have never been Natasha's biggest and best fan but have simply admired her and her work as a contemporary of mine from a very famous family...with a hugely famous mother...and yet she has been living what seems to be such a balanced, bright and well-rounded life.

All I can add is...bless her.

Shannon said...

I too commend you for what you have written Ms. Snarker.
With the 24/7 saturation of news that we find ourselves subject to these days, I find it deplorable that any news organization or any media outlet for that matter should be excited by being able to blare the headlines Exclusive or Only on...
Whatever the outcome, this is a time for Ms. Richardson and her family to be together and without the glare of the media.
Is it any wonder that Natasha Richardson and Liam Neeson have always been under the radar... they've been married 15 years and have two teenage children, are quite famous and yet manage to have lived fairly quietly until now... should it be too much to ask that they are allowed to continue to live without the glare of the media upon them?

Heather said...

Very good posting. I completely agree. It's sad when news sources have to be the first to report to the point where they give false information. Especially on an issue as sad as this. It's really sickening.

dc said...

So glad you spoke up about this insidious media disease of pumping out rumours as fact. I have been feeling this outrage more and more. Two recent examples of this gratuitous behaviour from the press:

1)Rihanna/Brown story - where PR spin from Brown's handlers have been reported as facts and then opinions about those "facts" have spun out of control.

2) The UK Jane Goody story, where OK Mag printed "obituaries" when she is still alive.

I don't know how to stop this frenzied rumour mill operating, but your views are much appreciated.

Tori said...

Just this weekend I witnessed the frenzy of reporting "news" via Twitter and how so many people are quick to RT just because someone wrote an article and used to the word "proof" a few times. It had only taken me 3 mins to figure out he'd probably never taken Research Methods in college and his "proof" was only an attempt to discredit his subject matter. By the time I'd corrected my source and they'd RT'd my correction, the web had long been woven. My roommates and I had a lengthy conversation over being in the age of "faster than Live" news reporting and how even reputable news sources are just becoming another spoke in the rumor mill. From the 2000 election coverage, Marcia Cross, to now with Natasha Richardson. I sincerely believe there's a very thin line between getting it wrong and making things up entirely. I've read 1984 and hope we never cross it.
My thoughts and prayer are truly with the Natasha and her family. It's one journey to recover from the accident on the slopes, it's entirely another to recover from erroneous news reporting.

JennT said...

Bravo Miss Snarker!!! What a breath of fresh air to read your sentiments!!

TechGirl said...

My thoughts and well wishes are with her and her family. I pray she will recover. 45 years old is still pretty young.

Should she not recover, it would be amazing if the media left the family alone to grieve and heal. Losing someone you love is hard enough without it becoming a media circus.

rehilete said...

You are so right with your post, it's a shame that such reaction from mass media is considered to be almost normal in our days. No respect for family, no respect for tragedy.
I truly hope that Natasha's much better, than it is discussed.

Lynne Jamneck said...

Dorothy - you're trying to relate "truth" to "media to "21st Century".

Anonymous said...

I was also extremely shocked to read on AE the 'brain dead' story from a site I regularly read and usually trust as a good scource of knowledge.

The internet has to be careful....and more responsible bloggers such as yourself are called for.

I hope Natasha pulls through

A Strange Boy said...

Thank you. A rational voice at last.

The media just gets even more sickening. They WANT her to die. I'm taking the more sensationalistic stuff with a grain of salt; the last word remains with the family.

Lennox said...

The competition to fill the 24 hour news cycle breeds this kind of stuff. It will only get worse. There is already very little distinction between the "rags" and the "legitimate" news as it is.

My very best wishes and hopes to Ms. Richardson and her family.

Anonymous said...

hey, why they want her to die?

in general, there is no person
who want others die.

Rocket said...

That's the saddest news. My thoughts go out to her young children, her family and friends.

Anonymous said...

no, my question was why you said
others want her die.

cus i feel, you want it so
you think so.
very critical thinking in a
negative way.

Anonymous said...

R.I.P :-(

Anonymous said...

um..
i comment above one by misunderstand,
so, sorry about the bad, nasty
comment. ( i was thinking about another thing, while leavig my comment.)

it's sad news,

Steph said...

I can only agree with what scribegrrrl said and also thank you for very caring, accurate coverage of this horrible event. I'm so sad for Liam and the kids. My prayers go out to them.

Anonymous said...

All of it...so, so sad

SunLFrog said...

Well done on the reporting and waiting.

That said, the stage and screen has lost a fine actress and her family has lost much more. Hopefully the media will be appropriate in giving them the space and time to grieve and start to heal.

RiverPoet said...

It's a truly sad situation, and the likelihood is that they had to make a very difficult decision. If she had the kind of brain injury the TV doctors suspect she had, there was insidious bleeding into the brain that started slowly and gradually got worse. Time is brain in this type of situation. Just like a hemorrhagic stroke, bleeding in the brain steals precious tissue and starves important areas of the brain of oxygen.

Had they kept her on life support beyond that point, eventually it might have become another sad story like that of Terri Schiavo (which happens all around America every day). Sorry for going on about this, but I'm a thanatology student and losses like this will eventually be my area of expertise. For now, I'm only a student.

And a sad fan of Richardson's work. She was so beautiful and talented. How horrible this is for her family. Those poor boys.

Peace - D

Cait said...

We posted basically the same sentiments on Thundersquee yesterday.

Time Out, the NYP, etc. - all sickening in their quest for the scoop.

I hope their "victory" feels utterly horrible.

At minimum, Richardson and her family deserve dignity, right? :(

Norma Desmond said...

On the topic of Journalism: Well said.

On the topic of Natasha: ... There aren't words.

Anonymous said...

my partner works in a worldwide media organization. Every day she has to check, double-check and even triple-check her sources to ensure that her photos are correct. But even she has been under pressure recently on the occasion of a horrific killing spree to release a photo that was not credited. She finally said that she refused to take the responsibility, stated this on paper and let the higher ups take the decision. It was released only minutes after. The pressure on her was amazing and I witnessed it happen.
I guess that I am trying to say that even though you may want to exercise caution, the speed with which the media now has to operate as a result of the internet will overrule you.

cappuccinogirl said...

the way this tragedy has been handled by the news media makes me sick. Sky News published paparazzi photos of the family visiting her in hospital. I avoid such reporting like the plague and this time I just couldn't. Try as I might, everywhere seemed to be stooping to the same lows.

I shall watch Asylum tonight and raise my glass to Natasha Ricahrdson. She will be sorely missed.

Oriana said...

aww Im really really sorry for her family... I felt her dead as someone from my family... I loved her in 'parent trap'...
Ill miss u Natasha!!! <3 <3 <3
=(

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the news. Natasha Richardson was one of my biggest crushes growing up. This is very sad.

A Strange Boy said...

To anonymous: I was referring to the media. Fox News and the New York Post are particularly guilty of this; Lennox and Anonymous (3:09 AM) understand this. A mother, wife and daughter (and actress) dying is tragic; they treat it as a race to be first to get a "great story".

It was like that with Schiavo and Pope John Paul II. They were vultures, not just acting like them.