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The Power of Immediate Reactions

The Power of Immediate Reactions

The Mamba Mentality

My name is Nolan Brown. I am the newest intern at Company Man Studios, and among many things, I loved Kobe Bryant.

Growing up, I vividly remember sitting in my uncle’s living room in Brea, just an hour away from Staples Center where the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics in game seven of the 2010 NBA Championship to win it all. The MVP was none other than Black Mamba himself, Kobe Bryant. 

I can easily recall the last time I yelled, “Kobe!” as I tossed a wadded up piece of paper in the trash can from an imaginary top of the key. His reach dominated the culture of my generation. Everyone knew who Kobe was, whether you loved him or hated him.

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Kobe Bryant was that guy. 

When I found out about his death, there was a subtle, unconscious urge at the back of my mind to share my thoughts with the world. So I took to Twitter just 20 minutes after the news broke.

I avoided the initial impulse to pour my heart out, so I quoted ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowski’s tweet with “I’m stunned.”

 

 

I surely wasn’t the only one. The response on social media was overwhelming — anything related to Kobe dominated the top five trending topics on Twitter within the first couple hours of the news breaking, which is something I have never seen before.

Shared Reactions Made Public Can Unite People

Seeing the reactions from people of all walks of life — sports fan or not — was overwhelmingly supportive. People came together and shared their love and support for the Bryants. Some people shared their personal Kobe stories about what he meant to them. Some fans even shared a Change.org petition to make Kobe Bryant the new NBA logo. Over 2 million people signed the petition in just four days after his death.

Or They Can Divide People …

Among the love and support were those with a point to make. Kobe’s death was also instantly used to make some sort of political statement. In a way, his death had become weaponized within hours.   tweet about kobe bryant's death tweet about kobe bryant's death twitter responds to trump in kobe bryant's passing   And if that wasn’t bad enough, there were those who went after Kobe’s past. In 2003, he was accused of sexually assaulting a hotel worker. The criminal case against him was later dropped, and Kobe and the accuser settled outside of court. The case was in the past, but it left a dark mark on Kobe’s legacy.  Even in the wake of his death, people managed to dig up his case. Just as the news broke, Felicia Sonmez, a Washington Post reporter tweeted a link to a 2016 Daily Beast story that detailed Kobe’s case.   WaPo reporter digs up dirt on Kobe after death.   Of course, it’s something that people shouldn’t forget about Kobe Bryant. It’s a part of his legacy. But to bring it back to light immediately after the news of his death broke? That’s not only unethical as a journalist but just isn’t the thing to do as a decent human being. There’s no need for responses like Sonmez’s. They only add fuel to a smoldering fire.
Regardless of what the news or people on twitter say, how the people closest to Kobe respond is most important, and in the public eye, there seems to be a need to say something almost right away.
It’s almost expected of celebrities to make a public comment immediately following an event. Making a public reaction has become the assumed next step after something happens. We as everyday people feel the need to do it because everyone else is doing it, and we want to go along with it. Celebrities are expected and pressured to react, whether through covert or overt means. Someone in the public eye can’t just say, “let me mourn in peace,” and retreat. Lebron James posted a tribute to Kobe on Instagram two days after the tragedy. I understand people grieve differently, but it’s highly unlikely Lebron was ready to say something publicly. He even began his post with “I’m Not Ready but here I go.”  
View this post on Instagram

I’m Not Ready but here I go. Man I sitting here trying to write something for this post but every time I try I begin crying again just thinking about you, niece Gigi and the friendship/bond/brotherhood we had! I literally just heard your voice Sunday morning before I left Philly to head back to LA. Didn’t think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we’d have. WTF!! I’m heartbroken and devastated my brother!! 😢😢😢😢💔. Man I love you big bro. My heart goes to Vanessa and the kids. I promise you I’ll continue your legacy man! You mean so much to us all here especially #LakerNation💜💛 and it’s my responsibility to put this shit on my back and keep it going!! Please give me the strength from the heavens above and watch over me! I got US here! There’s so much more I want to say but just can’t right now because I can’t get through it! Until we meet again my brother!! #Mamba4Life❤️🙏🏾 #Gigi4Life❤️🙏🏾

A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

  It’s also likely Kobe’s wife Vanessa felt pressured to react immediately, considering she posted on Instagram three days after her husband and daughter’s death.  The media likes to say so-and-so “breaks … silence” as if the public is tapping its feet saying, “we’re waiting!”

Media: It Shouldn’t Be A Choice Between Immediacy Or Accuracy

People think being the first to comment on something means anything. Too many times I’ll see the comment “first!” toward the top of the comments section on a YouTube video or Instagram post. 

It’s usually not even the first one you see, which drapes a layer of irony over the concept. It’s typically the fourth or fifth. If it’s not the first one I see then that comment is wrong, right? News organizations didn’t follow that logic when breaking the news about Kobe’s passing.

To start, TMZ published the breaking story before the Bryant family was even made aware. TMZ was the first outlet to report it, but what did it matter? They beat their competitors — hooray. But the families of the victims had to learn through a tabloid that their loved ones were killed. At the end of the day, what was the point of being first?

In the mad rush to get the story out, multiple sources reported the wrong information.

 

 

Some sources reported Kobe’s entire family was killed, some said there were only five people killed. Some reports even said that Kobe’s former teammate Rick Fox was killed in the crash, which was subsequently disproven. In the race to be first, the media placed people in an accident they weren’t a part of.

 

 

It’s not a new phenomenon, however. A New York Times article published in 2012 argued against the idea that Twitter reporting is bound to be inaccurate in initial reports. For some outlets, inaccuracy can be overlooked if it’s corrected. But getting the facts wrong isn’t acceptable. And the Times knew this back when breaking news via Twitter was still a new thing.

Now, just over seven years later, we still cling to a norm of mediocrity in Twitter reporting, with few outlets being the exception. The race to be first hasn’t changed — it’s gotten worse.

Conclusion

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The power of an instant reaction can be amazing, wonderful and heartfelt. But they can also be cold, calloused and filled with menace. People don’t always realize this when they hit send. Reactions to an event, while there are thousands and sometimes millions, add to the overall sentiment of an event. 

How people react will also shape how an event is viewed down the road. History will remember Kobe’s legacy based on how other people saw it, regardless of the truth. 

In today’s world, public opinions carry too much weight to be taken lightly.

Think before you post.

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