Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The world was shocked to hear that beloved basketball player Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old  daughter Gianna and seven others passed away in a tragic helicopter accident on Sunday, Jan. 26. TMZ, one of the first media outlets to report on the story, has been chastised for reporting the news before the police had the chance to notify the families of the deceased. It is important to keep in mind that while it may have been insensitive for TMZ to report on Kobe’s death before his family was notified, reporting the news is their job. TMZ should not take all of the blame. In actuality, the problem lies with the profitable industry that has been built around celebrity gossip.

TMZ is a business, first and foremost. They sell celebrity gossip to the public and people are fueling the insensitivity in the tabloids by clicking, liking and sharing articles. The tabloids want to be the ones to break a story first so they maximize their revenue. Celebrity gossip is a billion dollar industry because people choose to support it. Tabloids wouldn’t have the power that they do if people were not constantly interested in their stories. 

Part of the problem lies with the sources that provide the information. Tabloids offer money for information they could use in a story. They don’t care where the tip comes from, all they want to know is if it’s factual so they can publish the story without being sued. A source is always someone close to the family, a witness or someone trying to make a quick buck from an event or tragedy. The source is partially to blame because sometimes they give information to the tabloids for financial gain, while others do it to say that they were the ones to supply the pictures, information or videos. These are the people that add fuel to the fire. Without a source, gossip could not spread and the tabloid industry would not thrive.

At the end of the day, TMZ and other tabloid sites are businesses. They report and publish articles they know will make them money. Tabloids publish articles, people read them, and tabloids make money from it — it is a vicious cycle that perpetuates endlessly. Tabloids need people in order to thrive so they will continue to produce the content that will make them money.

The only real way to stop the insensitivity is to stop reading and circulating the stories. TMZ and other sites that get the news of a celebrity that has passed should hold off on publishing it until the families have been notified. Famous or not, celebrities are still people. Hearing about their family member passing through a Twitter hashtag or a tabloid article can add unneeded trauma and stress to an already confusing time. The families should always be the first ones notified before the public.

Celebrities should be treated with the same dignity and respect that everyone deserves. Still, TMZ and other tabloids are not the sole problem with celebrity gossip. The problem is that celebrity gossip is a profitable industry and people support it even though it is constantly insensitive to celebrities.