Photo Credit: Star-Telegram.com
This headline is the same headline the New York Daily News used when this story first broke on January 10, 2015. Can anyone guess what’s wrong with it? The headline conveys the cause of Tarpley’s death was due to drugs, but the cause of death was kidney failure. Although he was removed from the league because of his drug abuse, I’m sure he and his family didn’t want him to be remembered as a drug addict, especially if he was clean prior to his death. If I was the sports editor, the headline would’ve read “Roy Tarpley, former Dallas Mavericks center, dies at 50.” Some other good examples are “Former Mavericks big man Roy Tarpley dies at 50” by espn.go.com or “Former Michigan great Roy Tarpley dies at 50” by mlive.com.
Mentioning in the article his NBA career was cut short due to drugs would’ve been fine – following with the positive things he did for his community – but including ‘drug-plagued’ in the headline wasn’t necessary. Journalists have to make ethical decisions and in my opinion, this decision was unethical when it comes to his family and his legacy. Even national and prestigious media outlets make questionable decisions, so it’s important to decipher good journalism from bad journalism. To all my aspiring and current journalists, make sure you know the difference.