Lil Wayne Leaves Hospital After TMZ Gives Him Last Rites
The story of Lil Wayne's bout with seizures took an ominous turn on Friday (March 15) when TMZ reported that Wayne was in a medically induced coma and being read his last rites. The story, which is still developing, has lurched in competing directions and struck a chord within the hip-hop community and media.
The news was troubling enough before there were any reporting discrepancies. Then TMZ's claim about Wayne having his last rites read was removed without explanation. It was a major part of the report and its absence left a gaping hole in the story.
"People knew he was in the hospital and then there was this 'last rites' thing," Chuck Creekmur, founder of hip-hop news site Allhiphop, told Radio.com. "In the media, everybody is looking for the scoop. But when you're talking about somebody's life, you have to hit it on the head."
Rob Markman, who had just left his desk at MTV News, rushed back to the office in an attempt to make sense of the reports. "To hear 'critical condition,' 'ICU' and 'last rites,' it makes it much more severe," Markman told Radio.com. "We really love our artists and herald them as heroes. Big, Pac, Pun, Big L. You remember where you were when you heard the news of their deaths. As a fan and member of the hip-hop community, it hits you. As a journalist, you gotta get yourself together."
While the hip-hop media outlets got into gear, the most complete reporting came out of TMZ, a site known for breaking news about celebrity mishaps, not for its attachment to the hip-hop community. "I certainly reported what they reported because I trust them," said Michael Skolnik, editor-in-chief of GlobalGrind, the site founded by Russel Simmons. "Within five minutes, I was working on a story. I thought this could be it."
The truth about Wayne's condition was caught up in a tug of war between Lil Wayne's camp and TMZ, both sides wanting to control the story narrative. After TMZ's initial report, Mack Maine, the president of Wayne's YMCMB label, sent out a message via Twitter.
Wayne is alive and well! We watching the Syracuse game…thanks for the prayers and concern..he will update you all soon. #love
— Mack Maine (@mackmaine) March 16, 2013
A tweet from Wayne's account soon followed, but it raised more questions than it answered.
"I'm good everybody. Thx for the prayers and love."
There was no Instagram picture of Wayne accompanying the tweet to give the claim validity. The wording felt foreign and outside of Wayne's voice. It had all the elements of a cover-up, an attempt at spin.
TMZ issued a snide update, which took aim at Mack Maine's attempt to control the narrative:
"Wayne is sleeping right now," TMZ reported, "which is odd, because he just tweeted saying he's OK and thanking people for the prayers and love."
While TMZ attacked the tweet from Wayne's account, they quietly deleted the 'last rites' portion of their own story. Along with the back-and-forth, the sudden altering of the story created a cloud of controversy and a foggy understanding of the facts. For an organization like TMZ and its otherwise credible army of unnamed sources, it raised questions about its journalistic practices. A lot more here.
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