Archive for February 3rd, 2020

Service of Should Transgressions Go Unmentioned After Someone Dies?

Monday, February 3rd, 2020

Photo: gatewayfh.com

A Washington Post reporter was immediately suspended–and later reinstated from the punishment of administrative leave–for tweeting, after his death, about Kobe Bryant’s sexual assault charge 17 years ago. Bryant had said he thought the encounter was consensual but according to New York Times** reporters Rachel Abrams and Marc Tracy, “he had come to understand that she did not see it in the same way.” She was a 19 year old Colorado hotel front desk clerk. The case was eventually dropped after an undisclosed settlement.

The reporter, Felicia Sonmez, received death threats and online abuse as tributes by politicians and celebrities praised Bryant. She linked to 2016 Daily Beast coverage of the case in her tweet.

Three hundred + fellow Post reporters protested Sonmez’s suspension. Abrams and Tracy wrote that “The Post’s social media guidelines ask journalists to be informative and factual in their online posts.”

the spruce.com

Martin Baron, the paper’s executive editor, sent her an email last Sunday. He wrote that she showed “a real lack of judgment to tweet this. Please stop. You’re hurting this institution by doing this.”

Two days later the paper stated that Sonmez “was not in clear and direct violation of our social media policy.” The New York Times reporters wrote “The Post’s statement also referred to her tweets as ‘ill-timed’ and continued: ‘We consistently urge restraint which is particularly important when there are tragic deaths.'”

Sonmez wasn’t the only one who remembered the sexual assault charge. Len Berman, morning host on WOR 710 Radio’s morning show–and a former TV sports reporter–mentioned it observing that Bryant’s record wasn’t unblemished as implied by most media.

Photo: aarp.org

**Something curious: I looked on line for the article I read in the print New York Times story “At Post, Another Round of Dissent Over Bryant” [photo below]. The facts and quotes in this post come from it. It wasn’t on the paper’s website nor could I find it via Google. Other articles on the subject by reporters Abrams and Tracy are online but not that one.

Are there different rules for public figures when it comes to mentioning a hiccup in a person’s life after they die? For example you wouldn’t mention your Cousin Nigel’s misbehavior at his funeral or in his obituary, would you? Are rules of behavior different if a celebrity dies in a horrendous accident? Should a reporter be reprimanded for tweeting the truth about a beloved public figure? What if such a person is disliked–would a tweet like Felicia Sonmez’s have gone unnoticed?

I couldn’t find a digital version of the NY Times article at the bottom of the page.

 

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