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Why Gayle King violated journalism ethics by asking about Kobe Bryant’s past

According to the Society of Professional Journalists, “ethical journalism treats sources, subjects, colleagues and members of the public as human beings deserving of respect.”

The organization also states that journalists should “balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort. The pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness.”

With Bryant being a public figure, King had every right to ask questions related to his past. However, her follow-up questions with Leslie went too far. King appeared to be searching for a viral moment at the expense of Bryant’s past while disregarding the feelings of Leslie, Bryant’s family and his fans.

Christopher Daniel, a multimedia journalism professor at Clark-Atlanta University, shared his thoughts about King’s approach to her interview with Leslie.

“Gayle was fine with the first question given Kobe’s connection with Lisa,” Daniel said. “It was fine given the context was around legacy, and legacy can be both positive and negative. I would only ask that question and leave it there. Anything after, given Gayle’s body language and persistent probing, was unnecessary, premeditated and off-topic.”

Daniel said that he would teach his journalism students to frame the question another way.

“She could have asked what kinds of conversations did Kobe have [about the criminal case] and how the controversy and situation affected him and his family since his daughter is also deceased,” Daniel explained. “I would teach them to focus more on the implications from the controversy and backlash, or if that had any effects on how Kobe’s future conduct would change.”

Daniel said he believes King’s questioning was contrived. Months earlier, King received national attention after her controversial interview with R. Kelly.

“Gayle was going for Emmy and Peabody [awards] gold,” he said. “Given the fanfare and trends from the R. Kelly interview, Gayle was going for a sequel of sorts for the ratings. … She knew better, and she deserves the sting. [Kobe] fans are grieving.”





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