Every situation is different, but death always seems to be a hard topic. We could be talking about a close relative, an acquaintance from years ago, a pet, or a famous person. How people respond is unique and usually understandable.
Usually. And I will say it. Tom Petty’s younger daughter seems to be an exception.
Monday afternoon, I heard about her father’s sad situation as a quick breaking story on some local newscast. It all but said he was dead. I think it also credited TMZ which, like it or not, would’ve been sued out of business if it wasn’t so right on the money. Again, it turned out to be true.
Then, since I get emails from People magazine for some reason, this came: “Rock Legend Tom Petty Dead After Full Cardiac Arrest at Age 66.”
I really didn’t think much of it because it had become expected, and being in the news business for decades jaded me. I was tired after watching hours of Las Vegas shooting coverage and if I had thoughts at the moment, they would’ve been to get file video, old facts, and be on top of whatever new was being reported.
But there seemed to be no update on TV for far too long. I’m not so heavily into music but even I was familiar with Tom Petty. Maybe it was the Florida connection.
Anyway, I eventually clicked the People link and saw the headline “Rock Legend Tom Petty ‘Clinging to Life’ After Massive Cardiac Arrest at Age 66: Report.” Notice the evidence, as if necessary, how the original headline was reflected in the web address http://people.com/music/tom-petty-dead-66-heart-attack/.
I became interested. This one-time soap opera fanatic knows real people don’t come back to life, and doesn’t waste time on fake news, or the people and sites that publish it.
My friend Eric, in the media whom I completely trust, posted on Facebook about what he’d done earlier:
“My Petty post was based on information from LAPD. Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office now says: LAPD did not handle Petty call. WE did. Petty has a DNR (legal Do Not Resuscitate order: Lenny) and is “clinging to life,” “not expected to make it through the night.” So, to recap, Petty not dead yet… but soon.”
The fact is, except for the victim, this was a local Los Angeles story. Who from outside the area knew there was a difference between the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department? Not me, even though I covered O.J. Simpson’s murder trial and those of us in the east of a certain age are familiar with the California Highway Patrol (CHiPs), thanks to NBC.
Then, the LAPD (police department) heard reports of Petty’s passing and tweeted this:
“The LAPD has no information about the passing of singer Tom Petty. Initial information was inadvertantly (sic) provided to some media sources. However, the LAPD has no investigative role in this matter. We apologize for any inconvenience in this reporting.”
Yes, this was a huge story. Also, keep in mind most of the east coast media had been woken up early that morning for the Las Vegas massacre I alluded to, and members of the west coast media may have been up 20 hours. And nobody is perfect.
Back to a family tragedy. Loved ones rush to a hospital room. Nobody knows what’s going to happen, or when. There’s panic and confusion. People aren’t thinking clearly.
However, it seems the younger of Petty’s two daughters, AnnaKim Violette, spent a lot of time during this unfolding unexpected tragedy on an Instagram account, (warning about the next link) taking on Rolling Stone magazine which I don’t read. The last I heard of them, they retracted a story about purported group sexual assault at the University of Virginia and I read wire copy since I worked in Virginia shortly after that.
After-the-fact reports blame CBS for being first with the wrong story, but the network explained: “CBS News reported information obtained officially from the LAPD about Tom Petty.”
Then, between early Monday afternoon until about midnight (Pacific time), seeing the network’s first tweet caused other major media outlets and celebrities to react incorrectly.
Maybe Rolling Stone had something to do with it. I don’t know why Violette, in her 30s, picked on them, but the barrage of vulgarity was completely unreasonable to do by her dying dad’s bedside. I can’t think of any reason for her to be interacting with anyone she doesn’t know personally at that time, much less constantly be interacting with the whole world. (Last warning is over comments below this picture.)
I don’t know what she was doing besides typing but if I was there with reason, I would’ve wanted her out of that hospital room.
Could anyone imagine Tom Petty wanting any of us to think about her misbehavior when they remember the end of his life?
Sorry to break it to you, AnnaKim, but your father was your father and also a human being, and he was also a celebrity whose premature death was news, whether you like it or not. A family statement would’ve solved a lot of this and you had too much time on your hands.
So take your inheritance (including any possible genetic gifts) and consider it the price of being born into a famous family, not that you chose to. Others would’ve appreciated your luck. You’re far from the only mourner out there. Millions are. You just seem to be the angriest and most out of line. Let’s hope.
P.S. The media should be embarrassed enough. At least this time, they’d been given incorrect information and had been up too many hours. They were wrong. Maybe there’s no excuse, but this comes close.