Tom Petty dies at 66, death misreported

By Adrian Keeney
October 13, 2017

Tom Petty, portrait, New York, 1977. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
Tom Petty, portrait, New York, 1977. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers perform at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 2012. Picture from Wikimedia Commons.

Students at Cabrini, both those with and without musical backgrounds, have felt the loss of beloved music icon Tom Petty after he died on Monday, Oct. 2. The fact that his death was misreported certainly was no help.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, who released hit singles such as “Don’t Do Me Like That” with his band The Heart Breakers, and “Free Fallin'” as a solo artist, was rushed to a Los Angeles hospital after being found unconscious inside his home in Malibu. He died of cardiac arrest later that night.

“Tom Petty was more than just a singer and a guitar player,” freshman student and rock enthusiast Anthony Gatto said. “He was an icon that helped shape a generation of music that still continues to influence people today. His untimely death is horrible for every musician and I hope we won’t let his legacy fade away.”

Gatto, too, is an avid guitar player, and he expressed his sympathy for Petty’s family and friends, as well as his fans.

Other Cabrini students expressed similar feelings toward Petty’s death.

“I was extremely upset when he died,” junior business major Matt Keelan said. “My dad and I are huge fans and we used to go to a lot of his concerts, so Petty kind of holds a place in my heart. It was confusing when I first heard he died, but then they said he didn’t die, and now they finally reported that he did die. It’s a shame how the whole thing went down.”

The misreporting of Petty’s death became a media ordeal. It was first reported by CBS at 3:59 PM that Petty had died, citing sources in law enforcement; however, updates were made to the article and the headline was changed to “LAPD clarifies it cannot confirm Tom Petty’s death.”

File:Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers 1977.jpg
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Picture from Wikimedia Commons.

“Typically, in the event of a crisis media, (traditional media) report facts as they come in and are in a continuous loop of correction throughout and after a crisis,” Margaret Rakus said. “While a celebrity death is not a crisis, it is not surprising that there was some confusion. It is possible that some accurate facts were reported, but interpreted inaccurately.”

Rakus, an assistant professor of communication at Cabrini, explained how this incident plays into the matter of public distrust toward the media.

“In this case, the Los Angles Police Department released information before it was confirmed,” Rakus said. “It is unfortunate for CBS that they reported Tom Petty’s death prematurely. More unfortunate, news media have experienced a decline in public trust for a decade. Local news is perceived as most trustworthy.”

Video by Coraline Pettine.

Adrian Keeney

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