It has been confirmed by her family that actress Natasha Richardson has been taken off life support. This comes after 24 hours of seriously conflicting reports reports as to the actress’ condition (Time Out New York – not TMZ or PerezHilton or The Daily News – at one point actually declared her dead). But what I had hoped was an ill-informed rat race for attention that would prove false, and that Richardson would survive, has turned tragic.
It was nonetheless rather insensitive on some media outlet’s parts, with the worst example coming from, not surprisingly, Fox News, with this headline:
There were also various clips and photos of Richardson’s mother, aunt & sister as they went to visit her in the New York city hospital she was flown to yesterday. I realize that privacy and discreetness is a non-existent concept in this new age of instant gratification media, but it would be nice if, now that the mystery has been solved, people would back off and let the family grieve.
The LA Times Patrick Goldstein articulated the issue at hand better than I can earlier today:
Nearly every day you can find an example of someone rushing a story into the blogosphere that turns out to be, well, not really true, as I noted in a post the other day when the showbiz press was full of reports that Summit Entertainment had hired a new director for one of its “Twilight” sequels, when in fact the company hadn’t even finished interviewing possible candidates. Now we have the depressing example of the ghoulish swarm of coverage of Natasha Richardson’s horrific skiing accident, which reached its nadir with this post from Time Out NY’s theater blog, which prematurely killed off the actress, running the headline: “RIP Natasha Richardson 1963-2009.”
I’m not sure what was worse, Time Out being in such a rush to be first that it put up such an offensive, sob-sister post in the first place or that it proceeded to insult everybody with a shameless display of false piety, ending the post by quoting from Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline.” If the worst thing about the blogosphere is its endless pursuit of the ephemeral, the best thing is surely the ability of readers to instantly offer their reaction to shoddy journalistic scoundrelry.
Mere minutes after Time Out had its post up, the verdict was in: In terms of cruddy journalism, Time Out was guilty as charged. You can read the comments for yourself here, but it was refreshing to see that readers haven’t grown so cynical about the blogosphere that they aren’t outraged when it reaches a new nadir. My favorite response, from the aptly named Ghost of Edward Murrow, was a far better example of writing than the original piece. It went as follows: “Time Out’s credibility was declared brain dead today. The site suffered a horrific fall when rushing to get the scoop on the personal tragedy of a fine actress and her family, and according to anyone with a clue, will not recover.”