Amidst the breaking news of Kobe Bryant’s death, Miami, Florida TV News station WPLG-TV/Local 10 News tweeted Sunday that Bryant’s four daughters died on the helicopter with him.
But, that wasn’t the case. Only one of his daughters was on the helicopter. Despite that, WPLG hasn’t posted a correction and argued to a Twitter follower who was upset about the error that it didn’t actually report it but was only sharing another news outlet’s report, despite not sourcing the claim in its tweet. To iMediaEthics, WPLG said its claim was based on ABC News’ now-corrected report; however, the tweet didn’t source the claim.
iMediaEthics took a screenshot of the 3:10 PM Jan. 26 tweet, which read, “#UPDATE Kobe Bryant’s 4 daughters reportedly among those killed in helicopter crash” with a link to a story. The tweet has since been deleted.
iMediaEthics wrote to WPLG president and CEO Bert Medina to ask about the erroneous, now-deleted tweet, but heard back from WPLG executive producer Jeff Tavss.
“We tweeted a report from ABC News that included the information about the four children,” Tavss wrote to iMediaEthics. “The ABC News information was only relayed via Twitter and not on-air.”
He added that, “Once ABC News backtracked on their reporting we issued another tweet saying their report was possibly incorrect. ABC News was the source of the claim, as you have previously written about.”
Tavss was referring to iMediaEthics’ report that ABC News wrongly reported the same claim. When we asked ABC News about the error, ABC News provided the text of its on-air correction. ABC News also has suspended the reporter who made the claim.
iMediaEthics asked Tavss if WPLG tweeted a correction and why it didn’t state ABC News was the source in its inaccurate tweet. We also asked him for the WPLG tweet he said that said “their report was possibly incorrect” as we could not find that on the WPLG Twitter account. He responded that he also could not find the tweet but indicated someone must have removed it. He wrote:
“Just went back and looked for the Tweet and see that you’re right, it’s not there for some reason. But it was posted, as you can see via a screengrab of the post made through our service. I will have to see who pulled that as very few have permission to do so. The link in the Tweet was a story that attributed all to ABC News.”
Tavss did not respond to further iMediaEthics emails including asking if it would publish a correction and repost the tweet he said was removed.
Tweets with Viewer argued it didn’t report the claim but just that others were reporting it
While WPLG has apparently not posted any Twitter correction, it did argue in several tweets to one viewer that “we reported other outlets were reporting it, not the Local 10 was reporting the information.” That doesn’t square, because the tweet didn’t attribute the claim to any outlet, so readers who saw the tweet wouldn’t understand that distinction.
“Tell the truth now. We reported that other outlets were reporting it, not the Local 10 was reporting the information. Thanks,” WPLG tweeted. In a follow up tweet, “Thanks for sharing the tweet that proves our point. ‘Reportedly’ is the big word in that tweet, and when you click on the link, it tells the story. Thanks again, and thanks for focusing on the important story of 9 people who lost their lives in a tragic accident.”
The viewer responded saying WPLG shouldn’t have reported the wrong claim, to which WPLG then wrote, “Local 10 did NOT ‘report’ the news. We’ll move on. Have an amazing day!”
When the viewer then commented on the tweet being deleted, WPLG wrote, “Uhhhh, tweet was deleted 24 hours ago when @ABC News pulled back their reporting. But, you know, thanks, we guess”