The L.A. County Sheriff called it "wholly inappropriate."
No one wants to learn that their loved one was killed in a crash while watching or reading the news. Authorities do their best to keep information under wraps when tragedies occur in order to make sure they've correctly identified the victims involved and to give them time to notify family members before anyone else. However, in this day and age where outlets want to be the first to break a story, unspoken rules of ethics aren't abided by.
When TMZ reported the stunning news that Kobe Bryant had died in an accident, many people thought that the celebrity-gossip outlet was mistaken. According to CNN, it had only been an hour since police were even notified of a downed aircraft, so while they were still assessing the scene and trying to identify the passengers of the helicopter, the story was shared on TMZ's website and social media accounts.
It immediately spread like wildfire, but investigators were less than thrilled with the news break. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva held a press conference where he criticized the outlet. "It would be extremely disrespectful to understand that your loved one... perished and you learn about it from TMZ," Villanueva stated. "That is just wholly inappropriate."
Los Angeles County Undersheriff Tim Murakami expressed his disapproval in a tweet. "I am saddened that I was gathering facts as a media outlet reported the Kobe had passed," Murakami wrote. "I understand getting the scoop but please allow us time to make personal notifications to their loved ones. It’s very cold to hear of the loss via media Breaks my heart."
TMZ is well-known for its breaking stories, especially those about celebrity deaths. They were the first to report on the tragic deaths of Michael Jackson, Prince, and Whitney Houston.