Tuesday, September 23, 2008

TMZ's mishandling of Travis Barker and DJ AM's plane crash

Possibly my favorite drummer around and a DJ I only know because he was once engaged to Nicole Richie were involved in a deadly plane crash that occured shortly before midnight on Friday. Out of the six people aboard the small plane, Travis Barker and DJ AM were the only survivors. The dead are the pilot and copilot, Barker's assistant and Barker's bodyguard. It's a devastating tragedy and I'm glad that the two men survived the crash, and are recovering in a burn unit in Georgia where they are being treated for second and third degree burns.

TMZ had been updating constantly with information on the crash and their conditions all weekend. It was on Sunday when they posted this bit of information on their website (which post has since been taken down):
Travis Barker's assistant wanted to get home in time for his pregnant wife to give birth.

We've now learned why Barker and his friends decided to get on that doomed Learjet in South Carolina late last night, and the explanation can only be described as a horribly cruel twist of fate.

It all started some time yesterday, when Barker's assistant, Chris Baker, told the guys that his wife was going into labor. Barker told him that he would do everything in his power to get Baker back to the hospital in time.

The quickest way back to Van Nuys was that Learjet. We're told Barker usually won't fly on private jets, but made an exception for what was supposed to be one of the happiest moments of Baker's life.

The plane crashed shortly after midnight, killing four people -- including Chris Baker. Baker's wife went into labor early this morning. Baker has another young child as well.

Why was the post taken down? Well, it turns out that Baker's wife was not in labor! TMZ soon posted again, and the link can be found here, but here is an excerpt:

A publicist for Travis Barker and DJ AM contacted TMZ and says our sources are incorrect -- that Chris Baker's wife was not in labor when he died in the plane crash and that was not the reason Travis and the others flew home on a private jet.

What sources did TMZ have? Did they know that their story could have been incorrect and still knowingly decided to post it on their website? This is just one instance where this type of celebrity journalism should not be called "real" journalism.

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