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.