Be Careful With Obituaries

When I rolled out of bed this morning, one of my internet friends messaged me and asked if I’d heard anything about the passing of Ronnie James Dio, a well-known heavy metal artist. I scanned a few websites and responded I couldn’t find anything official. I’d later learn there were false reports of his passing all over the internet.

Unfortunately, the false would eventually become true. During the 3:00 p.m. hour of Rock 104 RockTrax, I found this message on RonnieJamesDio.com — which I would relay to the radio audience…

“Today my heart is broken, Ronnie passed away at 7:45am 16th May. Many, many friends and family were able to say their private good-byes before he peacefully passed away. Ronnie knew how much he was loved by all. We so appreciate the love and support that you have all given us. Please give us a few days of privacy to deal with this terrible loss. Please know he loved you all and his music will live on forever.”

– Wendy Dio

…for the record, I awoke before 7:30 a.m. In a factual sense, news of his death was closer to rumor than truth at the time.

While I’m saddened to learn of Dio’s passing, there’s a lesson for all of us in this tragedy. We have to be careful when reporting on someone’s death — whether it’s a famous rock star, government leader or the barber down the street. Stating someone’s dead before the actual passing needlessly adds to the heartache the family and friends go through.

As I noted to a member of a local rock band today, it’s better that we’re last on the air with a story like this, and have all the facts correct in the process, than to be first on the story and air a lot of misinformation.

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