March 17 2009

Natasha Richardson Skiing Accident

natasha richardsonActress Natasha Richardson was involved in a life threatening skiing accident yesterday.

Ms. Richardson was involved in a skiing accident on Monday in Montreal while taking a beginners lesson at Mont Tremblant. She was reported to have gotten up and walked away under her own power, but was accompanied by two members of the ski patrol to her hotel room. An hour later, though reports claim she hit no objects during her accident and showed no obvious injuries,  she started having severe headaches and was admitted to Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal.  Her condition was quickly elevated to critical, and her husband, actor Liam Nesson, left the set of the film he was working on in Toronto to be with his wife.

Details are still sparse on what exactly happened, but reports are now moving between that Ms. Richardson has died, may be brain dead or is just sufferening from swelling of the brain.

If my regular readers are curious as to why I am covering something like this, it’s because over the past hour I have seen this story evolve so quickly it is mind boggling, but it also speaks to the problems of “journalism” and blogging.

perez hilton natashaAt 11:59 AM CST, I saw the tweet on Twitter pictured to the left from Perez Hilton come in.  It linked to this story on his site that Time Our New York was reporting that Ms. Richardson had passed away, with them citing a family friend as the source.

As I thought I would write something up on it, I decided to look for a corroborating source, you know, something journalists should actually do.  I was finding nothing, and the actual Time Out New York page was not responding.   By 12:37 PM CST, I found the following information on

UPDATE: 1:37 PM ET — We’re told Richardson’s jet was scheduled to take off from Montreal-Trudeau Airport. A rep for the airport said the jet is either still there or has just taken off.

We’re told Natasha Richardson has been transported from the hospital in Canada via ambulance. CTV says she boarded a private jet — we do not know where the jet has gone, but we believe it’s New York City.

Richardson was accompanied by a medic team for the flight.

At almost the exact same moment, Perez Hilton came out with a note from Time Out New York that they got it wrong.

Okay —

Sorry about the confusion. We spoke to source, who confirms “brain dead and will not survive”, and therefore, her friends and family are mourning her unofficial death.

My apologies with the semantics issue.

Please let me know if you have more questions — I have copied Michael Freidson, TONY’s editor in chief.

Um… “semantics”?  I don’t think so folks.  There is a world of difference between “dead” and “brain dead”.

By 12:48 PM CST, Time Out New York released yet another statement via Perez Hilton.

Time Out New York sincerely apologizes for the confusion. We stand by our sources, and our friend of the family first confirmed “dead” and then called back to say “brain dead.” We find the situation incredibly tragic and obviously wish to only report the facts.

We stand by our new statement that she is brain dead and not expected to survive. Unfortunately, the article was not taken down — our website crashed from traffic. Time Out New York regrets the error.

Well, yes, you should regret the error! How much pain did you just cause a family over shoddy reporting?  Yes, I know this could just be labeled as “a celebrity story”, but we are talking about a wife here.  A wife with two children who has a family already enough pain to not have to deal with so-called “journalists” chomping at the bit to have the “exclusive” story first that they don’t bother to actually get around to vetting their stories or sources.  I mean, why should they?  This is the Web after all!  You hit publish, get out there first, and THEN you can worry about silly little things about getting the facts right.

This isn’t so much about Ms. Richardson, though my heart does go out to her and her family, but it is about how reporting is handled on the Web.  You want to be the first out there with a story so you can get all of that social bookmarking goodness, so you can be the one to be “retweeted” the most times.  And this isn’t just happening with stories such as this one, it happens everyday in every reporting field on the Web, this was just one of the easiest I have ever seen to track its exact evolution.

Sadly I think the time has come where every person out there who reads news on the Web has to do some double checking of their own.  Unless it comes from an untouchable source, you need to go to a search engine and see if anyone else is reporting the news that grabbed your attention, and then you have to see if they are citing the source you just came from or someone else.  It sucks that you have to do your own checking now, but if this whole debace proves anything, it’s that no one is looking at for your best journalistic interests except for yourself.

UPDATE 3/18: You can find out information about Natasha Richardson’s death here.

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