Social Justice Organization Accuses TMZ Of Using Black Trauma For Profit, Creates Petition
Fans have been harshly criticizing the news outlet for prematurely reporting on the passing of notable Black celebrities.
February 21, 2020 at 8:19 pm
A petition has been created asking advertisers to withdraw their partnerships with gossip news outlet TMZ after they recently published the news of rapper Pop Smoke passing before his family was alerted of the news.
Pop Smoke was killed while at his California home early Wednesday morning, as Blavity previously reported. Accused of rushing to release the breaking news, TMZ reported his death without consulting his family.
The outlet also released a video of paramedics working to resuscitate the “Dior” rapper.
As one of the largest online social justice organization, Color of Change is demanding “advertisers drop TMZ until they institute a new policy to consult with families before reporting Black celebrity deaths,” the petition reads.
“Celebrity gossip website TMZ has built a company based on gossip, and reaped the benefits of Black trauma, while blurring the lines between factual journalism and knee-jerk click bait,” the petition states. “These moments featured Black pain that drove millions to a TMZ website that has approximately 500 million advertising impressions per month, resulting in over 100 million dollars in company value as of 2010.”
Known for being one of the firsts to publish breaking news, in January, TMZ reported that NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, passed away during a helicopter ride in California. The outlet was harshly criticized for reporting on the news of Bryant and his daughter passing without reaching out to his family or waiting on official confirmation from authorities.
“Vanessa Bryant didn’t deserve to find out her husband and child passed on TMZ. While the Bryant family waited for official confirmation of the worst news of their lives, TMZ was all too eager to capitalize on their loss. TMZ had the responsibility to report factual information with integrity and they failed to that,” the petition continues. “Sunday afternoon, in a rush to break the news that basketball legend Kobe Bryant, at the age of 41, died in a California helicopter crash along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, celebrity gossip website TMZ ran the story before his surviving family was notified by authorities.”
The petition details other examples of the outlet’s history of prematurely reporting on the deaths of notable Black celebrities. In 2012, a TMZ reporter allegedly bribed a hotel employee where the late Whitney Houston was staying to capture pictures of the bathtub where the singer died of an overdose, according to the petition.
Just a year later, the outlet was criticized for posting a video of 19-year-old Andre Lowe being killed outside of a Hollywood, California, nightclub despite his family’s request to not publish it, HuffPost reported. Also in 2013, TMZ reported that Lil’ Wayne was in a coma and on life support. Rapper Mack Maine took to Twitter to address the rumors.
Wayne is alive and well! We watching the Syracuse game...thanks for the prayers and concern..he will update you all soon. #love— Mack Maine (@mackmaine) March 16, 2013
"We will be releasing an official statement shortly but don't believe the nonsense about comas and tubes to breathe...that's false!!" Maine tweeted. "#F**kTMZ."
The petition also includes a letter addressed to TMZ founder Harvey Levin. The letter asks Levin to issue a public apology to Bryant’s family and change their policy on reporting deaths.
“In an effort to be first, your company has proven that driving website views and engagement on the back of Black tragedy is more important [than] adhering to the ethical rules of journalistic integrity,” the letter reads.