Beyond Tacky

Yesterday I noticed that many of the top gossip sites — TMZ- Extra TV, Perez, Oh No They Didn’t — all posted the audio recording of the 911 call made by Dr. Donda West’s friends just before her death. How disgustingly tacky, I thought. Why would anyone even do such a thing, I wondered.

I read the comments on those posts — I don’t really feel like linking to them, it’s too depressing. If you really, really want to hear more about this phone call, Google it yourself. On every blog I visited, the readers almost unanimously agreed that it was horrific and wrong to share this as though it was merely gossip. How tragic that this woman’s death is still such a salacious story in the media. How unnecessary and morbid and just generally f’d up it was that this phone call was being posted online. People were asking the gossip sites to take the posts down.

So imagine my reaction as this morning, I’m in the kitchen unloading the dishwasher, CNN Headline News blaring in the background… and I hear that the 911 phone call is one of the “top stories” on CNN. Really, CNN? Am I alone in thinking, WTF? How is this a top story? On CNN, no less — a channel I turn to for news about the war in Iraq, politics, and y’know, NEWS? I don’t quite get it. I noticed that as of yesterday, black gossip blogs pretty much seem to have left this story alone out of respect for Kanye and the memory of his mother. I know it’s common practice to release 911 phone calls to the public, and Dr. West was a public figure. But I honestly don’t understand why her final moments and the desperate attempts to resuscitate her should be the lead story on the most prominent news channel. The whole thing has me irritated, shook, and seriously questioning what defines news and good taste nowadays.

What do you guys think?

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  1. It is definitely tacky and hurtful. Can you imagine Dr. West’s family not only dealing with the emotions of losing their loved one but having to relive the pain when turning on the TV or on the internet? This is a prime example of how we are living in a society that even the most sacred things are continuously exploited (death, marriage, birth, etc).

  2. I have to admit that I listened to that call and like many people, became totally frustrated on so many levels. For it to be posted as you’ve mentioned, the actual turn of events and for myself for listening to it. The link was on my AOL homepage and I’m almost ashamed that I fed into it. I was already annoyed at Princess Diana’s love letters being shown to the public, (the woman has been gone for a decade, leave it alone dammit) but the posting of this 911 call is infinitely worse and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It is incredible that CNN would report this as a news story as well; I certainly hope Kanye is out of the country for a while and removed from this.

  3. This is beyond tacky. I can’t even imagine how Kayne is handling hearing his mother’s 911 tape over and over again. Thank God here in NY one of the black radio stations said it was too tacky to air the sound bite.

    I wonder what is wrong with the heads of media nowadays. They ought to be ashamed.

  4. Unfortunately this is not the first, or the last, celebrity-related 911 call to be released to the public.

    I purposely didn’t listen to this call because it’s not as if they uncovered anything new. It’s just the usual “race to the bottom” in the news cycle.

  5. Horrible & tacky…people should be ashamed at posting that

  6. I completely agree. When my clock radio came on this morning with the local station announcing this as their top story, I promptly turned the radio off and got up. I avoided any mention of the story yesterday online. I was beyond disgusted. Human tragedy for ratings is why I don’t watch or listen to local broadcast news. Too depressing.

  7. Exactly my point, Nichelle! There hasn’t been a discovery about the cause of her death, the toxicology reports aren’t complete. There’s no new news here yet. So it just seemed gossipy and trashy and in terrible taste to have it be a lead story at the top of the hour, and to play excerpts of the phone call. I learned absolutely nothing new from the report — except that the news media will apparently sink to all-time lows to attract viewers, compete with celebrity gossip outlets, and keep us distracted from the issues that affect us all.

  8. I was truly hurt that certain blogs chose to air the 911 call and now CNN…..WTH are people thinking? The West Family is still grieving and to deal with another slap in the face is just unreal. I honestly wish some people would use…common sense…’s just that simple.

  9. I admit I am one of those people who like to “see” inside celebrities lives too. But, this crosses the line. CNN just sank to a new low.

  10. That was done in poor taste and the 911 Call is not newsworthy. The call doesn’t illuminate any new information. Morbid and tacky.

  11. This was extremely tacky. I was wondering if Kanye gave them permission for this. Because, I’m thinking why would they do such a thing? This is not mere gossip, this is about someone’s death. There is no way they can present that 911 call as entertaining. This is how hollow America is, no respect at all take any and everything for the name of Entertainment.

  12. Mrs. Mckinzie says:

    I was speechless when i watched Entertainment Tonight and they just snuck it in there and it cought me by surprise.I was so so mad that i just turned the channel.People just do not have a heart anymore.This is the only time they give a black woman the spotlight is for some mess like this.What about when our sisters and the children are missing we can’t get airtime for that.It is time for a change.

  13. Exploitation of human misery. CNN has indeed sunk to a new low. The death of Dr. West is terrible tragedy and her passing deserves simple respect and dignity. It’s my feeling that this manipulated obsession with every detail of celebrities lives, is designed to keep us from focusing in on and demanding solutions to the real issues we face…war, global warming, poverty, crime, etc. My heart breaks for the West Family.

  14. It was on the news here and I changed the channel only to find it on all the local news channels. This is a new low.

  15. I think our news and media has taken a turn for the worse. CNN and my local news channel now covers gossip, like Britney looses her baby, so and so got divorced. It os a complete shame that people are so caught up in celebrities lives that our news channels feel obligated to report it to us.

  16. This is a disgrace. I hope that this will be a wake-up call for folks to abandon traditional media forms that have really lost touch of what news is. This makes me sick to my stomach.

  17. I was watching the news last night when the anchor announced in this faux sympathetic tone, that they were about to air an “exclusive” tape of the 911 calls of Donda West. I switched the channel so fast. Since when did this actually qualify as news? The whole thing pisses me off. The media will use this as their top story, but when a black female goes missing *crickets*. It’s all sooo freaking sad.

  18. Interesting that the death of Dr. West brings this to light. This is not the first 911 tape aired – on a local or national level. I’ve always thought it tacky that frantic 911 calls be aired, no matter the decedent. I actually called into a local news station a few years back – a young child had been killed and the station went to the family home to get their “reaction” which was heart wrenching – screaming, crying, etc. I could not believe the station would air that and was so disgusted I called and told them so. I haven’t heard this particular tape and have no interest in hearing it or any like it.

  19. I cosign with Nerd Girl. Because Dr. West is the mother of a celebrity, more people are paying attention to this insult to privacy and decency, but frantic 911 calls are aired all the time, where you hear the screaming, crying, fear, all that. I haven’t heard this particular one…but I think all such airings are an exploitation of real human misery and suffering for others’ entertainment. I feel it is yet another indicator of how numb so many have become to the reality of death, violence, etc.

  20. The media continues to fill our lives with rubbage. I guess there is no such thing as personal tragedy…for the sake of ratings. I understand why a lot of people don’t keep up with current events…hearing about so many negative things can get your day off to a very dismal start.

  21. warrior11209 says:

    Tacky , tacky, tacky. I heard that the tape was to be one of the lead stories this morning on the News and I promptly turned the TV off. It seems like “the News” in an effort to gain ratings is trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator!

  22. Bella,

    I am >>>here

  23. Wow! My whole spiel just disappeared. Anyway. I agree. And have lost much respect for CNN in the past year.

  24. My heart goes out to Kanye & his family. Why can’t they be allowed to grieve in peace!!!

  25. Unfortunately the public eats this sort of thing up. While we are appalled at this, more than likely we have been guilty of listening to another gruesome story on another level. I stopped getting People Magazine and others like it after Diana when they went to far as to say how she died.

    The 9/11 coverage (reporters asking people did they see people jumping from the WTC) was appalling.

    I feel for Kayne. It is unfortunate that the more heartbreaking the details, the more the press wants to cover it.

    I applaud black radio and gossip sites for standing against this, but will they always be as noble when it comes to other stories? That’s the 100 Million dollar question…

  26. This is the sad part of being in the public eye and the even saddest part is that some people actually like to hear things like this. They think because he is a “celebrity” that those things around him, no matter how private, are not completly private because of who he is. They do not take into the fact that the man just lost his mother and the last thing he nor the rest of his family need to hear is the voices of those with her in her last moments trying to bring her back. It is demeaning and very disrespectful. You would think at some point they would allow the man to grieve privately without the media throwing things back up in his face.

  27. Wasn’t it the same with Anna Nicole Smith? I guess that not living in US or UK gives us a breather from the “in-your-face-constantly” “celeb-news” feeds but correct me if I am wrong about it being treated the ame as ANS’ death?

  28. You took the thoughts right out of my mind Bella. I noticed this was on Perez yesterday and I REFUSED to listen to it, because…well…WHY? First they release the voicemail she left for her stylist, now this…can she just rest in peace?!?!?!

    RIP Donda West.

  29. Wow, didn’t know this reached CNN…so sad, so sad. They should be ashamed.

  30. While it is distasteful, especially in this case, where the person was a known figure, (which is why a lot of us feel more personally offended)this is par for the course. The news shows regularly release 911 phone calls, especially when linked to more notable/notorious cases. So even though I haven’t heard it, & have no desire to hear it, I don’t know if I can blame these news or gossip venues for playing it. She’s the mom of a top celebrity & she was a known figure in her own right who died unexpectedly under questionable circumstances, so naturally (& unfortunately), there are going to be a lot of people who want to know the latest news in all it’s gory details on what happened with her death. And these shows are going to satisfy the curiousity & fascination anyway they can… Also, I never go to TMZ, Perez, or any of these gossip sites anymore,for about a year now, I had to get off that bandwagon, it’s just insubstantial filler & empty distraction…leave that crack alone! ;-)

  31. I am glad that I did not listen to the tape of the call. I am mad when 911 calls are released on any level-celebrity or not (did I really need to hear the frantic 911 call of a lady crushed under the rubble of the Minnesota bridge collapse?)I think we are desensitized to a lot in this society today and I think that’s why we have most of the problems we have–nobody takes anything seriously anymore (even death) and it’s all fodder for snarky jokes and the gossip sites.

  32. I agree with Niki. I hate it when any 911 calls are released. It’s a terrible invasion of privacy and there is no public good that comes of it. I wish it were banned.


  33. I totally agree. BEYOND tacky. Poor Kanye.

  34. Something similar to this happened last night here in Chicago. The mother of an astronaut in orbit was killed in a horrible car accident yesterday afternoon. On the evening news, they were talking about how the astronaut can’t get back to earth until February. The terribly tacky thing was that in addition to talking to distraught friends and neighbors on camera, they got a hold of the deceased’s recent Christmas letter to the family, and the reporter shared the contents – that she was looking forward to her son’s arrival, events in the lives of her family. I kept thinking, why? The exploitation of such horrific events by the media is just tactless and absurd.

  35. gregorsamsa1977 says:

    “out of respect for Kanye” hahaha*snort* you guys are funny!

  36. I’m completely disgusted by the news and media. There have been several instances lately where I’ve thought it was not absolutely necessary for us to know that. This is one of those situations. Also, when Owen Wilson attempted suicide and they delved too deeply into that. I know what people say about the scrutiny being part of the package when you become a celebrity, but come on! The media circus behind the Anna Nicole Smith trial was another example. I mean, say what you will, but this was a deeply troubled woman with a deep love for her son and the media removed that humanity from it and made it all a show. It’s really terrible. I’m very happy to have BBC America as one of my stations. They actually report the news.

  37. I was in the kitchen cooking when I heard it – I had Access Hollywood on and I had to run out and cut the TV off. My son heard it and was horrified. He loves Kanye and when he heard his mother had passed he was in a funky place for a week or so and he is only 12.

    I agree…we have all heard other 911 tapes before and maybe that’s why they thought it was okay to do. But to me, it was so distasteful and scary to hear a woman’s last moments of life. They did not think about the family and how they would feel AT ALL. What family would want to hear that?

  38. Esteban Agosto Reid says:

    Totally tacky and distasteful!

  39. Reading this i finally took a break from this work. I run a hardware store, and i get kinda stress throughout the day =) your page just gave me a few minutes of relax =) I wish i could find a rss feed on your site so that i could get some more. Ill be sure to come here more often from now on =)

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