A second reporter has been suspended in the aftermath of basketball star Kobe Bryant’s death.
ABC News confirmed it has suspended chief national correspondent Matt Gutman for erroneously reporting Sunday that all four of Bryant’s daughters were on the the helicopter that crashed near Calabasas, Calif. It was later confirmed that Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, including the pilot, perished, but his other three daughters were not there.
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“Reporting the facts accurately is the cornerstone of journalism. As he acknowledged on Sunday, Matt Gutman’s initial reporting was not accurate and failed to meet our editorial standards,” an ABC News spokesperson said in a statement.
For his part, Gutman said he is in the business of holding people accountable and he holds himself accountable for a “terrible mistake,” which he “deeply” regrets. “I want to personally apologize to the Bryant family for this wrenching loss and any additional anguish my report caused.”
News of Gutman’s suspension emerged shortly after The Washington Post reinstated national political reporter Felicia Sonmez after putting her on paid leave earlier in the week for tweeting a link to a report detailing Bryant’s 2003 sexual assault charges in the hours following the crash.
Its decision to put her back in the newsroom followed a union letter signed by hundreds of her coworkers complaining about her treatment. The letter argued that Sonmez received an onslaught of violent messages, including threats that contained her home address, in the wake of the tweet and “instead of protecting and supporting a reporter in the face of abuse, The Post placed her on administrative leave while newsroom leaders review whether she violated the social media policy.”
In a statement, Tracy Grant, managing editor of The Post, said that after conducting an internal review, executives determined that, “while we consider Felicia’s tweets ill-timed, she was not in clear and direct violation of our social media policy.”
“Reporters on social media represent The Washington Post, and our policy states ‘We must be ever mindful of preserving the reputation of The Washington Post for journalistic excellence, fairness and independence,'” she added. “We consistently urge restraint, which is particularly important when there are tragic deaths.”
ABC News and The Washington Post were not the only media outlets in the spotlight after Bryant’s death. Gossip and celebrity news site TMZ has been accused of reporting the story before checking if the families of the victims had been alerted.
At a press conference Sunday, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters that authorities had not been in touch with families before TMZ published its story. But TMZ founder Harvey Levin insisted Tuesday that Bryant’s representatives had confirmed it.
“We dealt with Kobe’s people…and we were told very clearly that she had been notified,” Levin said during an interview with LA radio station KNX’s “In-Depth,” referring to Bryant’s wife, Vanessa Bryant. “We were dealing with them for an hour before we published the story and they said, ‘Go for it.’” When further probed about whether the other families were notified, he admitted that it was “a fair point.”
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