Is It Okay To Speculate On One’s Death?

Good morning all.

So, “Sean” a fellow reader posted an interesting comment here today. He ( I assume Sean is a he) posted an apparent review of a conversation he had with Barb DiGulio over her tweet (since deleted) about the possible death of the brother of Maple leafs players Colby Armstrong. Recall that DiGulio tweeted that she was hearing Riley Armstrong was on the plane that crashed.

Here are Barb’s apparent comments to Sean on Twitter:

1. “I was not stating it as fact, but as a report. My error was in my wording. ‘We are hearing’ should have been ‘CBC reports’.”

2. “The deciding factor is whether it is of interest to the listener. Speculation okay if it’s made clear that is what it is.”

3. ” Speculation is not irresponsible if based on relevant things like team rosters. As long as it’s stated that it’s speculation.”

Okay, so with respect to #1. Agreed, kind of. If she tweeted that CBC is reporting then it’s strictly commentary. The question is what was CBC reporting? If they were reporting Armstrong was definitely on the plane, then it’s one thing. In my mind if the CBC was reporting he MAY have been on the plane then it’s another.

With respect to #2. I completely disagree. The truth should be the deciding factor. Whom certain players may be sleeping with, drinking, etc. would, I am sure, be of significant interest to the listener and that isn’t reported as speculation either! I haven’t heard too many radio hosts talk about that stuff on the air even if it’s reported as speculation. This is speculating on whether someone died or not. The test should be much higher in that regard, in my opinion.

With respect to #3 Does this remind you of JP’s it’s not a lie if the teller knows the truth? Rogers Sportsnet The Fan 590 is a amongst other things a news company. They have a reputation. They are respected. DiGulio, despite what some of you may have said in your comments reports the news. There is a level of trust. Again, I don’t see how there isn’t a higher smell test for speculation on someone’s death. It’s one thing to report trade rumors. The reason people rip certain rumor sites is that they lack credibility. The Fan, in my mind anyway, is, or should be a reputable news outlet. They are, or should be above the National Inquirer.

In my mind, speculation on someone’s death is irresponsible if not confirmed. I could be crazy, but didn’t the relative of one of the players who died yesterday in the crash suffer a heart attack upon hearing the news? There is something called journalistic integrity (and make no mistake about it, I am not a journalist) and I would hope that this comes to play when speculating on one’s death.

There was an uproar when TMZ speculated on Michael Jackson’s death right?


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September 8, 2011 11:47 am

AGREED! The National Post’s article today that Riley Armstrong woke up yesterday, turned on the news and saw his picture as one of the possible victims of the plane crash struck me as frightening. They obviously didn’t try to contact either him or his family if that’s how he’s hearing about it! How is this excusable?

September 8, 2011 11:49 am Here’s the link to the National Post story.

September 8, 2011 12:47 pm

nice of Barb not to read, or to admit she passed off hearsay of someone who can’t properly parse a story
I can’t account for what the TV side did – I work at CBC and helped handle the online story – I did not write it or list the players, though. I’m pretty confident our TV people would not say or infer someone was on the plane. In fact I heard them stress repeatedly, “We don’t know who is on the plane.”
We, online, did not say he was on the plane. Remember, the info didn’t come from the ether – the team’s own website listed those players. When something’s fast-breaking, you work with the information you have at hand.
This is direct from one of the early versions of the online story:
“The team’s website lists Canadian Brad McCrimmon, a former NHL player, as head coach, and says the team includes two Canadian players with NHL appearances — Ramzi Abid and Riley Armstrong, brother of Toronto Maple Leafs forward Colby Armstrong.

The team’s 2011 roster also includes former Vancouver Canuck Pavol Demitra and former Ottawa Senator Karel Rachunek, as well as former NHLers Josef Vasicek and Karlis Skrastins.

But it is unclear whether any of those players were on board the plane that crashed Wednesday.”

When a tragedy happens, people want context. In this case, were there Canadians/NHL players possibly on board?

If we say “A plane carrying the Pittsburgh Penguins has crashed. Such and such and so and so are some of the top players on the Pittsburgh Penguins.” That would seem to me unassailable. Those are facts and there’s nothing wrong with saying those facts if you are taking pains to stress what you don’t know. Nothing wrong with that.
So why would it be different in this case? Unfortunately, with the KHL information can be a bit murkier. We’ve found out players have left teams weeks after it happened.
When a tragedy breaks the newsgathering process is hectic … you can make a strong case that, indelicate as it may seem to people not working in the business, it actually worked because Riley Armstrong was able to be notified in fairly short order to get in touch, within the hour it seemed, to say, “Hey, I’m here in Canada.”

I would also point out from a CBC online standpoint we were later than competitors in stating who had died. Didn’t run McCrimmon until CP had confirmed, and the other players until teams and embassies had confirmed, which was later than other sites. TSN, it should be noted, confirmation of the deaths of about 5 players or so as a tweet, before any story on their site said so.
I would argue that THAT is more dicey journalistically than what your post is about because you should be reporting deaths in a forum where you can expand on HOW you got that confirmation. The story should come before the tweet in a situation like that, with the tweet then pointing to it.
Finally, we’re accountable – we ran the Armstrong confusion story on our own site hours later

Another Steve
Another Steve
September 8, 2011 2:22 pm

In answer to your question: yes, as long as the death in question is one’s own.

I speculate about my own death every time I go on the highway each morning.

Gerry (Burlington)
Gerry (Burlington)
September 8, 2011 3:25 pm

Wow, so Barb thinks we should know all her parameters for twitter how? Brutal, perhaps Dalton McGuinty would like Barb to twitter all of his campaign promises that way when most are not followed through on we can just refer back to Barb’s manual of why those promises didn’t need to be fulfilled.

Sam In Scarb
Sam In Scarb
September 8, 2011 3:36 pm

Hey someone just tweeted “Barb G has been let go by the Fan”
This may or maybe not be true!!
But if the tweeter deletes it then everything will be fine..
He/She will just blame someone else..
Remember you are the FIRST to hear
Weather true or not!!

Chris F.
Chris F.
September 8, 2011 3:43 pm

Hmm I’m a bit disappointed in Barb here. I agree with TSM on everything that he said in that article. I mean it’s one thing to report trade rumors and such but it’s quite another to go half cocked and report someone’s death without any kind of confirmation. That’s low rent journalism right there.

Again, really disappointing.

Another Steve
Another Steve
September 8, 2011 4:08 pm

Do people really get news from twitter? Wow.

The other day I heard Grange comment on the new magazine, saying that it would be “long-form journalism.” My interest went up. I don’t know if it will survive in the twitter universe – however, I will be thankful.

One small note on this “scandal”: it’s a great reason to quote Mark Twain’s famous line (“the reports of my death…”). 🙂

Chris F.
Chris F.
September 8, 2011 4:14 pm

Another Steve you would be surprised how many people in their 20s-early 30s get their sports news via twitter. It seems a lot of people use twitter to replace news websites and such.

As for the magazine, nice to hear that it’ll be long form stuff. It could lead to some real in depth reporting and interesting profiles on sports personalities.

Hugh Knowe
Hugh Knowe
September 8, 2011 5:48 pm

Not to defend Barb, but I see nothing wrong with what she tweeted. At a time like that, information is coming in fast and furious. She may have worded it better, but that hardly constitutes an offence. And Gerry in Burlington, do us all a favour. Go deaf. Fast.

September 8, 2011 6:49 pm

To be fair it’s Barb DiGulio, not really a journalist. Can we use the term ‘Coxed’ when someone does a premature death tweet?

Bobby G
Bobby G
September 8, 2011 7:47 pm

TMZ didn’t “speculate” on Michael Jackson’s death. They just nailed it down from their own sources before anyone in an official capacity confirmed it for the record. There’s a huge difference.

September 8, 2011 8:27 pm

TSM is right…Barb is wrong…period. I wish she would simply come clean, apologize and move on. I replied to her tweet and she did not reply back. Simply an example of not only bad journalism but bad taste regardless of her profession.


September 8, 2011 8:40 pm

I heard Barb DiGiuglio at the Fan is getting fired.

Is it true? Who knows, but if you put “I heard” in front, that absolves you of accountability.

September 8, 2011 10:33 pm

Wow…one minute you’re telling us there’s heavy traffic on the DVP, the next you’re throwing crap against the wall under the guise of authority…what a great land we live in

September 8, 2011 11:53 pm

@ Anonymous – for someone who claims to work for a website for one of the country’s major corporations, your command of the English language leaves a great deal to be desired.

I’m assuming you have a tech job and not a creative one. Nonetheless. get your shit together, boy.

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