Natasha Richardson (1963 - 2009)

Posted: Thursday, April 09, 2009 by Travis Cody in

Today I must rant.

I waited a bit to post my thoughts about events surrounding the accident that led to the death of actor Natasha Richardson. I was saddened by her passing on March 18 from an epidural hematoma suffered during a fall while skiing.

But I was disgusted by the media rush to be first to announce her death. Many news outlets proclaimed that she had died well before she did. A particularly ghoulish story quoted those infamous "unnamed sources close to the family" to suggest that Ms Richardson was being flown to New York so she could "die at home".

Natasha Richardson was a woman, a daughter, a wife, and a mother. That she was also a celebrity is no justification for the speculative way that her accident and subsequent death were reported. The facts should have been enough to satisfy the "need" to report the news. Indeed, the only facts available were that she had been in a skiing accident, had felt ill some hours later, and had been admitted to a hospital in Canada. Some time later, she had been flown to a hospital in New York where she died on March 18.

Anything else reported in the media in the hours and then days after the accident was needless speculation to fill a 24 hour news cycle. And I will tell you that I'm sick of this scoop mentality. I saw reports that she had died on March 17. Those reports had to be recanted because she didn't pass until the following day. How difficult is it to confirm the facts prior to reporting an event? And how difficult can it be to refrain from reporting something you have not confirmed? Just shut the hell up!

News media behaved like freaking gossips!

Why is it more important to be first with a story than it is to be accurate with the facts? I don't need to know something immediately. I need to know the truth of what happened, and I can wait until the facts are confirmed. The media has created this illusion that the public needs to be informed of everything the instant it happens.

We don't. We need accuracy. We need facts. We can watch or read the opinion pieces we choose. But basic news events need to be accurately reported rather than speedily reported. If you can be accurate and speedy, well that's a bonus. But speed should never trump accuracy.

I also find it assinine that some have decided to use Ms Richardson's passing as an indictment against Canada's healthcare system, and subsequently as a political statement against proposals for healthcare reform here in the US. The facts I could find seem to indicate that Ms Richardson was lucid after the accident and refused medical treatment. As a consenting adult in possession of her mental faculties, it was her right to do so.

When she began to feel ill, she went to the hospital where reports indicate that she had the best of care including the proper scans of her injuries. Unfortunately, by then the bleeding inside her skull was too advanced. Her death was a tragic accident.

How arrogant of some to suggest otherwise. And how irresponsible. That's another thing I'm sick of...sensationalist fear mongering to push an agenda.

However, it is true that we learn from the tragedies that occur around us. I read that the parents of a 7 year old took the child to the doctor a couple of days after she had been beaned by a softball. They evidently had read about Ms Richardson and called their pediatrician, who advised them to bring the child to the hospital immediately. The child was diagnosed with an epidural hematoma, treated with surgery to remove the pressure, and released after 5 days.

The caution in this story has nothing to do with the relative merits or perceived deficiencies of a healthcare system. It has to do with very careful with head injuries. Even a seemingly slight bump on the head can have tragic consequences.

And I say to the media, slow down. Bring me accurate facts in a timely manner, but don't rush. And when you are reporting news, keep your speculations to yourself.

And to anyone who decides to be an "unnamed source close to the family", a family's tragedy is not your exploitive opportunity. Mind the victim's dignity and the family's privacy and keep your mouth shut.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Amen to that, Trav. I seldom watch the "news" anymore because it hasn't actually been news in quite some time. It's opinion and speculation. No spin, my fat Aunt Mabel.

  1. The death of newspapers and the invent of the 24 hour news channels has been the recipe for Journalistic End Times, and if that's the case, Armageddon outta here!

  1. Very well said Travis.
    It is sad to know there are people in the world who live for another humans' suffering.

  1. Anonymous says:

    news is now just "gossip", not NEWS.

  1. Akelamalu says:

    I so agree with everything you said Trav. The media can be a**holes at times!

  1. Bond says:

    Great post. 24/7 news means filling 1,440 minutes a day....the need to 'advance the news' has taken over the need to 'report the news'


  1. Ivanhoe says:

    I somehow missed all of the media crazyness about it. I still cannot believe that she's gone. So young.

  1. Jeni says:

    Excellent post, Trav. Inaccurate reporting is done so frequently now, or so it seems, that a person often doesn't know what to believe.

  1. Travis says:

    Ann: Thanks.

    WT4W: And sometimes people spread "news" that hasn't been properly substantiated.

    DB: No doubt!

    NNG: And who would exploit it in a sick ratings war.

    Lois: One wonders what they teach in journalism school these days, and who is teaching it.

    Akelamalu: It just doesn't need to be this way either.

    V: It's quite the ridiculous state of affairs.

    Ivanhoe: Such a tremendous talent with so much left to offer.

    Jeni: And we shouldn't have to figure out what to believe or how to interpret what we're told either. We should be given the facts.

  1. Julie says:

    Very well put. Now if we could get it into the hands and onto the monitors of ALL reporters!

  1. Cherie says:

    It's been a very long time since I've found any benefit to "watching the news." Then whenever I check back to see if things have changed, I find that it's gotten worse. It's a sad state of affairs.

  1. It was very sad. I feel for her family. And the media is like a bunch of piranhas. At the first taste of blood they go into a frenzy.

  1. Marilyn says:

    And really, while a celebrity illness or death is sad, it isn't an urgently newsworthy event. The public doesn't have this immediate "need".

    If it were an epidemic, important political event, natural disaster... then there might be an urgent need. The media has created this "need" for immediate celebrity news.

  1. I went for 9 years without a TV. I highly recommend it.

  1. Bravo, Trav. Amen to that.

  1. Anndi says:

    I was watching CNN yesterday and saw that some reporters waited to confirm Nick Adenhart's passing. I thought of your rant. *sigh*

  1. JohnH985 says:

    You pretty much said everything I agree with, Trav. Today it doesn't matter if you're right, just if you get it out there first. From guessing first who wins the Presidency to this type of thing our media doesn't care so much for if it's right or wrong, just put something out there before everyone else.

  1. you have said it accurately and fairly...and more articulate than most of the news reports we see.

  1. Meribah says:

    Bravo, Trav. You hit the nail right on, never mind. But you are SO right; the media does tend to get ahead of itself, turning gossip into news and misleading the public with false information. That is SO not right! I, too, want facts, NOT gossip, from my news sources.

  1. Isn't it hard to believe that someone so luminous is gone in a heartbeat? I waited until I heard it from Peter Mansbridge on the CBC national news before I gave the whispers any attention. Billy Bush on Access Hollywood just makes me want to wash the dirt off.

    My mom and I were saying to each other that her refusal of treatment (and how many people wouldn't downplay a bump on the head) should perhaps give head injuries a second look as to the patient's right of refusal. 'Being of sound mind' should be suspect the moment a head injury occurs.

  1. Marsha says:

    There's a total lack of 'reporting' the news and too much about 'making it'. Seems every report wants to be the one with the 'scoop' whether it's the truth or not has nothing to do with it any more......what a shame!

  1. I made a comment and it disappeared.....

  1. What I said was....
    The media were vultures with their insensitivity and race to be first. She was a beautiful young woman whose life ended tragically and too publicly.
    I also want to say that you have a gift for clearly articulating those issues you are passionate about with facts to back up your arguments in a fair way that brings "ranting" to a new level. Well done.

  1. cathy says:

    I never watch "the news" anymore, it's just to irritating.

    What a tragedy, she was the same age as me and now she is gone, just like that. Her family must be devastated enough without the added stress of the "press" :-(

  1. Travis says:

    Julie: Well, sometimes I do send emails and letters to media outlets when they get too outrageous.

    Cherie: Indeed it is.

    Charles: That's the perfect metaphor.

    Marilyn: I think the media has convinced themselves that celebrity news is critical to everyone. To a degree, society has fed that image.

    Lana: But I would miss my Dancing and my sports! And my Discovery, Science, NatGeo, and History channels. And Food Network. And HGTV. I'll just avoid news stations.

    Songbird: The only local news station I bother with is KIRO5. They generally stick to the facts.

    Ann: ESPN was also very careful with what they put on their scrolling ticker. And Sports Center was quite respectful.

    John: Where's Walter Kronkite when you need him?

    Katherine: Fair and balanced. The phrase has been used by extremists as part of the fear campaign. I don't mind if these opinion shows are partial to a side. They are designed to stick to one theme and bait the other side. But straight news should be impartial because facts are impartial.

    Meri: Maybe the media should stop telling us what we want, and listen to us ask for what we want.

    Julia: You've got a very good point about head injuries. Head injuries in sports are taken very seriously. Perhaps we should lobby our emergency services to make any head injury require a mandatory trip to the ER to rule out anything serious.

    Marsha: And they all seem to want to be part of the story too.

    Mimi: Thank you very much for the compliment. It really means a lot.

    Cathy: I thought the same thing. How awful for her young sons to see any of what was "reported" about their mom.

  1. Ivanhoe says:

    Hi Trav:
    I just wanted to say Happy Easter & let you know that I had to move. You can find me at:

  1. I couldn't agree more, Travis. I am frequently disgusted by the "media" treatment of celebrities - not to mention the paparrazzi.

    The worst part is when they claim it's because "the people" want to hear it.

  1. Anonymous says:

    But we donot have any way toknow for sure that she was lucid afterthe accident. That is hearsay.

  1. Travis says:

    Ivanhoe: I'll look for you there.

    Southern: The identity of "the people" is as ubiquitous as the identity of the dreaded "they".

    Anon: That wasn't really the point of my post, but I get what you're saying. It's another reason why I agree with what Julia said about possibly making any head injury sustained during an accident force a mandatory trip to the hospital.

  1. Jamie says:

    You speak for so many of us disgusted with the way so much of the "news" is reported, distorted, run into the ground, and milked for every advertising cent they can wring out of the latest tragedy or scandal.

  1. Dana says:

    Very good post!