13 February 2012

Philly Mag blogger jumps the gun on Whitney Houston's cause of death

This post doesn't deal with my usual topics of human rights and social justice. Instead, it deals with irresponsible journalism. But it needs to be said, because a free and accurate press is necessary for true democracy. So here goes:

Shame on Mike Bertha for jumping to a conclusion and presenting it as fact on his blog for Philadelphia Magazine.

Earlier today, he wrote:
Philadelphians Remember Whitney Houston. The 48-year-old singer died of a prescription drug overdose over the weekend.
How does he know that she died of a drug overdose when the toxicology test results likely won't be known for several weeks?

The CBS 3 report he cites says nothing about the cause of death.

Assuming that the cause was a drug overdose, since Houston has a known history of drug and alcohol abuse, is like me assuming that Bertha is going to botch any other "fact" he may happen to report in the future.

I want to assume that some of what he will write will be accurate. Shouldn't our late singer also be given the benefit of the doubt, pending medical proof either way?

I emailed Bertha to point this out (although not in so many words). He responded with the following:
"I meant to link, 'died of a prescription drug overdose' to the TMZ article from early this morning that says the Houston family that [sic] it appears that it was prescription drugs and not drowning. I apologize for the mix[-]up."
So instead of jumping to his own conclusion and presenting it as fact, he is simply republishing someone else's premature (and obviously unconfirmed) conclusion.

I don't see this as a mix-up, as he called it. I see it as lazy journalism.

Maybe he's just too busy auditioning for Fox News.

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