In Re: Kobe and Social Media

I don’t have anything in particular to add to the tragic story of Kobe Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash today. We’ll need to await details from the crash investigation (and whether Kobe was himself flying the helicopter in hazy/foggy weather), but already  the mind runs back to Yankee catcher Thurman Munson’s jet crash in 1978, golf star Payne Stewart’s ill-fated flight, or John F. Kennedy Jr. flying a light plane in poor visibility in 1999 when he had no business doing so.

It is not to be surprised that in today’s media environment there would be several erroneous stories getting released and then having to be retracted. More notable is a new low in social media (especially Twitter) today.

First, a reporter for the Washington Post, Felicia Sonmez, decided to tweet out a story from three years ago in the Daily Beast, “Kobe Bryant’s Disturbing Rape Case: The DNA Evidence, the Accuser’s Story, and the Half-Confession.” Seriously? Today you decide you want to recycle this? Couldn’t it wait until at least tomorrow? Sonmez is likely another journalist who has no clue why so many Americans hate the media. (UPDATE: Sonmez has deleted the tweet, but not before racking up what may be the worst Twitter “ratio” in the history of this sorry platform. She has reportedly been “suspended” by the Post, because Decency Dies in Daylight, or something.)

Then there started showing up on Twitter cell phone video of a flaming helicopter crashing into the ground in a deep canyon. I recognized immediately that it is a complete fake, as I am very familiar with the area where the crash occurred (on the road from Hwy. 101 over the mountains to Malibu that I used to take to Pepperdine), and the terrain didn’t look right at all. But the video trended on Twitter before people started calling BS.

But even more disgusting is what is happening to Alison Morris, a weekend news reader for MSNBC. In conversation with a guest, Morris slipped and instead of saying “Lakers” it sounds very much like she said the n-word. Naturally twitter lit up. I’ve listened to a tape posted on Twitter, and it isn’t 100 percent clear exactly what Morris said. Could be the n-word; could be just a clumsy mumble. I doubt seriously that an MSNBC news reader is a closet Klansman. In any case, Morris has apologized:

I didn’t think “Nakers” is any kind of racial slur; I’m not sure this is even all that close to the n-word, and perhaps this explanation is a bit too contrived. Morris might have been better off simply owning the slur, even if it’s not wholly clear what she said or was trying to say. What counts is that she has apologized for a mistake. In the comment thread, though, there is no forgiveness, as the Twitterati are demanding her firing. Over 7,000 comments on her tweet so far, most of them attacking her.

And that’s where we are today folks. “Social” media we call it, for some reason that doesn’t even rise to the level of irony.