If you’re like me in that you want to know every little happening with every athlete in every sport in existence, then Twitter is your best friend. The benefit of Twitter as compared to other social media sites is that news stories can be posted (and shared) very quickly. Unfortunately, that can present a problem, as so many outlets want to have their name attached to the story, and may eschew the facts for the sake of being the first to report on it. This problem has come into play in the past week with the whole mess involving Lamar Odom.
If you’re not aware with Odom or his story, here’s a rundown: Lamar Odom was a longtime NBA player and a very good one at that. He won two NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and also represented the United States at the 2004 Olympic Games, getting a bronze medal. Perhaps what Odom was best known for was his tumultuous marriage to Khloe Kardashian, and his drug addiction which led to the end of his NBA career and his separation from Kardashian. Last week, Odom, under the influence of crack, collapsed at a brothel near Carson City, Nevada.
TMZ was the party looking for some attention, and so, soon after he collapsed, they reported––first on Twitter and then on their website––before that the 35-year-old Odom died before paramedics could rush him to the hospital. Friends of Odom, including NBA players J.R. Smith and Al Harrington as well as rapper Lil Wayne, posted their condolences on Twitter and Instagram. I was even ready to post something on Facebook before the truth came out:
Lamar Odom was not dead.
Sure, he was in critical condition, but all indications were that he’d be fine eventually. Today, E! News reported that Odom was released from the hospital and on his way to Los Angeles for rehab. Maybe they reported that too early as well, but TMZ has since deleted all of their posts about Odom’s death from their website and all social media accounts.
Now, this isn’t a new phenomenon, and it’s not exclusive to the Internet. I remember CNN reporting that Obamacare had been struck down by the Supreme Court in 2012 when just the opposite thing happened. Initial misreporting stretches all the way back to 1948––just look up “Dewey Defeats Truman”. But with timeliness taking predecence over accuracy more than it ever has, the misery that is the handling of the Lamar Odom story is just a small piece of the negative effects social media has had on reporting.