Art and Entertainment


‘Heath Ledger’ as Told by New Media

January 26, 2008 03:00 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff

Inaccurate statements characterized the early reports of Heath Ledger’s death. To some, his demise has highlighted what is wrong with modern journalism.

30-Second Summary

The first to report on what happened were the Web reporters at Radar magazine: “We’re hearing a totally crazy rumor that Heath Ledger has been found dead of an overdose. It could be totally off-base, but if it’s not we want credit for ‘reporting’ it first.”

Media outlets stumbled over one another as facts—some erroneous—trickled into newsrooms. The mistaken initial report from a New York Police Department spokesperson that Ledger had died in Mary-Kate Olsen’s apartment was rapidly circulated from site to site around the world.

Some say this is typical of the way the Internet and 24-hour news coverage have changed the nature of reporting. The Internet disseminates rumors before they can be checked, and the blogs begin to voice their opinion before the facts are known. Heath Ledger’s death has prompted a number of writers to consider the state of the modern media.

Megan Garber from the Columbia Journalism Review writes, “If Web culture believes anything when it comes to much of its news coverage, it’s that talking can be just as important as saying something.”

Editor & Publisher
magazine is of a similar opinion as to the negative effect of speed reporting: “Journalists have generally had hours—not minutes or seconds—to craft a story from the blast wave of facts and factoids that comes in the wake of a bombshell.”

Phil Rosenthal of the Chicago Tribune judges that the new media has lowered the standards of both journalists and their audience, as both race to consume the latest celebrity disaster.

“This kind of gossip, usually dispensed with detached snark, has never been more prevalent than it is today There was a time when it was mostly a guilty pleasure perused discreetly while waiting for a price check in the supermarket line,” writes Rosenthal.

Headline Link: ‘Heath Ledger Autopsy Inconclusive’

Background: Writing obits for the young and beautiful

Opinion & Analysis: The new media

Reference Materials: Radar magazine


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