TMZ’s reporting of the helicopter crash that killed NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old Gianna and seven others was heavily scrutinized as the outlet was accused of breaking the news prior to Bryant’s family being notified. Additionally, TMZ shared video footage from the scene of the tragic accident. The outlet was also criticized for the way in which they broke the news of burgeoning rapper Pop Smoke’s death, which was similar to Bryant’s. A petition was launched highlighting the outlet’s lack of “journalistic integrity” when covering Black celebrity deaths. On Wednesday, TMZ announced the passing of Josie Harris, the ex-girlfriend and mother to three of Floyd Mayweather’s children. However, was the coverage different from those they’ve received flak about in the past?
TMZ reported that the champion boxer’s longtime girlfriend was found dead in her car at her home in Valencia, California on Monday night. “She was pronounced dead at the scene. We’re told there does not appear to be any foul play and the case is being treated as a death investigation as opposed to a homicide probe,” the site said.
The report detailed Harris and Mayweather’s tumultuous relationship history, including Harris’ claims of physical abuse. Harris claimed to have been abused by the boxer at least six times before the beating in September 2010, which landed Mayweather in prison for 60 days. The incident was witnessed by their then-15-year-old son, Koraun.
Nonetheless, the report did not include any graphic and/or intrusive photos or video footage from the scene, unlike Bryant or Pop Smoke. TMZ also did not break the news of Harris’ death shortly after it happened.
The Color of Change petition was launched shortly after Kobe and Gianna’s passing. “Vanessa Bryant didn’t deserve to find out her husband and child passed on TMZ. While the Bryant family waited for official confirmation of the worst news of their lives, TMZ was all too eager to capitalize on their loss. TMZ had the responsibility to report factual information with integrity and they failed to that,” the petition said.
The petition was updated to condemn the outlet reporting Pop Smoke’s death prior to his family being notified. The outlet was also criticized for releasing video footage of paramedics attempting to resuscitate the rapper.
“TMZ disregarded the effects its rush news reporting has on surviving family members or fans of the deceased – even releasing footage of paramedics working to resuscitate the 20-year old rapper,” the petition said.
Though not mentioned in the petition, the outlet also released surveillance footage of Nipsey Hussle’s murder in 2019, showing the late rapper being shot several times and also kicked by his killer.
The petition went on to mention the outlet falsely reporting that Lil Wayne was in a coma and on life support in 2013. The complaint also criticized TMZ’s reporting of Whitney Houston‘s death, claiming that the outlet “bribed hotel employees into letting him into her room, so he could take photos of the bath tub in which her body was found.”
Color of Change demanded that “advertisers drop TMZ until they institute a new policy to consult with families before reporting Black celebrity deaths.”
It is clear that TMZ does not abide by a journalistic code of ethics, but are there consequences for their tactless and hasty reporting?