When Vanessa Bryant posted on Instagram on Wednesday, it was the first time a member of the Bryant family had spoken publicly since Sunday’s tragic helicopter crash that killed her husband, Kobe Bryant, daughter, Gianna Bryant, and seven others.
That fact did not, however, stop various, less reputable outlets from running stories in which sources attempted to speak for and about Vanessa and her family from under a veil of anonymity, a practice the family has evidently had enough of, according to a statement they released on Thursday night (via the L.A. Times):
“We are disappointed in some media’s broad use of unnamed sources and blind quotes, and remind everyone that the Bryant family will speak on our own behalf when appropriate,” said Molly Carter, president of Kobe Inc. “To this point, no one has been authorized to speak on behalf of the family regarding any personal details surrounding Sunday’s tragedy, including stories related to the family’s previous air travel decisions. We ask members of the media for respect and responsible judgment during this difficult time. These inaccurate reports only add unnecessary pain to a grieving family.”
I could link to some of these unethical, tabloid trash reports, but that would just be giving those outlets the engagement they want for running such garbage, and I hesitate to do that.
However, I do think that the sort of crap I’m talking about is worth pointing out, so while I would urge you to not click on the link contained within the tweet below, I am embedding it to serve as a solitary example to show this is actually something that is happening, just so that it does not appear I am arguing with straw man:
Professional sports are in a weird place, journalistically. Anonymous sourcing is handed out like candy by insiders looking to beat team press release to news by 30 seconds in order to get some retweets, favors are transparently traded through favorable phrasing, and other such nonsense. Anonymity is normalized, and to some degree is the cost of doing business in a competitive, 24/7 news cycle.
But there is a difference between anonymously sourcing a trade rumor, and anonymously sourcing reports of someone’s distress in the wake of the loss of their husband and daughter. It’s not newsworthy to report that Vanessa Bryant is grieving. Like, no shit she’s sad. The only way that’s newsworthy information to you is if you’re a robot that has never experienced what it’s like to feel loss.
It’s also completely unethical to use anonymous sources to graphically describe what that grief looks like, and how it has manifested itself. There is no news value in saying that someone who just lost two family members is distraught, and certainly not enough to justify letting someone leak as much while being too cowardly to put their name on it. The same goes for any stories positing to give inside knowledge of any agreements Vanessa and Kobe had about traveling in helicopters in the past. Some things just aren’t any of our business.
The only way Vanessa Bryant’s reaction would be in any way newsworthy is if she wasn’t feeling any of the sadness and grief those anonymous reports have so vividly described without her consent, and even if that were the case, it’s still absolutely none of our business.
I hate to be that blogger ranting at the media. For the most part I feel like coverage this week has been very respectful under the circumstances. That noted, good lord, people. Let this family live, and give them space to grieve however they see fit. There is some information we’re not entitled to, no matter how curious human nature makes us. People just died, and while there is value in reporting on the facts of when, how and why various events surrounding that may have happened, a little human decency and restraint is owed to all of these families who just lost people. Anonymous sources have a place, but this isn’t it.