The internet gives us a chance to fuel change and has been a tool for that in countless ways. But it can also be a breeding ground for despicable and hateful words and content. Among the most disappointing things in the age of the internet is when a respectable news source goes down the trail of sensationalism and clickbait.
Yesterday one of my favorite trades, and what I've always considered to be the top tier of high brow entertainment journalism, stooped to the level of what I thought could only be TMZ. As of Monday, the Midnight Rider case in the death of Sarah Jones had come mostly to an end. If you don't remember this case or aren't familiar, Sarah was killed on the set of Midnight Rider one year ago when a train came through and the crew was forced to scramble from the bridge they were shooting on.
The Hollywood Reporter found it newsworthy to release the explicit details of Sarah's autopsy - what I can only assume is a cheap shot at trying to continue and capitalize on a tragic story.
What is happening to journalism?
In the age of funny Buzzfeed listicles it seems that more and more news sources are trying to reach the same audience and grasp at straws to get those same view numbers - now at the risk of forgoing ethics in journalism. What these sources don't understand is that these fun articles, which some might consider clickbait, are just that - fun and positive. But the story of Sarah's death is not. She was tragically killed in a train accident; who needs more grisly details than that? Who wants to know more gruesome information than that?
To the reporter who agreed to post these details:
Maybe you didn't think you were doing anything wrong. I want to give you the benefit of the doubt that you didn't know how deep those details would cut those who knew and loved Sarah. I hope you understand that the hurt and rage that comes with this is because we remember her for who she was - a bright shining soul, a dear friend, a daughter, a sister and a beacon of light. These details make it feel like she's reduced down to a story. Down to a corpse and a pawn. I'm confident this wasn't your intention but I hope next time you'll think twice when handling the details of someone's death.
Sarah's mother has released an open letter to The Hollywood Reporter and Moviepilot is happy to post on her behalf.
To The Hollywood Reporter:
I am totally stunned, I am totally appalled, and I am ashamed of the callous reporter who leaked the autopsy report of our daughter for the world to see. Although the grace and beauty of Sarah Elizabeth Jones outshines the deprecating words on a page, no one, NO ONE, should be so low as to think this gruesome report is newsworthy.
To the reporter, where is your own honor? Is your desire to climb the rungs of a career ladder so important that you infringe upon the privacy and civility of a family whose daughter was tragically hit by a train? Is our pain of losing a daughter not enough that you feel the need to exploit Sarah’s dignity?
Shame on the tabloid that published the article, that it should be so crude and selfish for readership numbers? Does that not put you in the same category of selfishness as the movie producers who thought it was ok to steal a shot?
Look at the lives of those you have harmed by publishing detail by detail, Sarah’s autopsy report. Do you not realize the pain and sadness of the Jones family? Do you not have an inkling of decency? Did the thought even occur to you that perhaps Sarah’s family did not choose to remember her by the poignant description of her remains?
It is my hope for you that you will discover one goes much further and higher with greater respect and honor than sensationalism that is harmful to not only the one you are reporting on, but the surrounding community as well.
It is my hope for you that you will find a place in the world of journalism that will not allow such indecency be a motivating facet of readership.
It is my hope that the ones who are offended by this report will speak out and let The Hollywood Reporter know their thoughts.
Elizabeth McCartha Jones
The death of Sarah Jones a year ago on the set of Midnight Rider was nothing short of tragic. And thanks to the tireless efforts of family, friends, and fellow industry workers her death has and will continue to spawn much needed change on production sets. No, it won't bring her back. It won't fill the void her friends and family will continue to feel with her gone, but we certainly won't let it be in vain. And we can continue to honor and love her.