On Sunday, Philip Seymour Hoffman died. I was not the largest consumer of his work, but I was definitely aware of his talent and his ability to foster life through every role he took on. His drug addiction, on the other hand, was not something I had known about until the news reports scattered through social media and CNN runners this weekend. It was an interesting and painful course of events, the way his story was covered.
I've seen a lot of death in entertainment news that has affected me in the last few months. Maybe it's because I've become more clued in on creation and media, and maybe it's because I've gotten to know so many artists throughout all the years of my life, but it's become so frightfully apparent to me that the way these tragic, unfathomable moments are publicly eulogized is not the way it's supposed to be.
Philip passed away due to drug abuse, something he had been struggling with for a large fraction of his life, and NBC's evening news immediately scheduled a story on the dangers of heroin in teenagers. Reporters clamored outside of Hoffman's New York apartment, begging to get the real deal, the inside story from police and close coworkers. Millions of people took to Twitter to send condolences to his family and loudly wonder about what would happen to all of his upcoming projects.
What about him, though? What about Philip Seymour Hoffman's family? Can the people closest to him not have a single day before his passing is turned into a PSA or a front page story? It sticks out to me in the boldest highlighter hue that it has not been pointed out to the leaders of the journalistic movement that we can inform the public without giving them too much. We can honor the lives of others without giving their lives away, without selling them for a price that will never be met. It's important to find versatility and admiration in every moment of loss and pain that comes out of the entertainment industry, but it is also a place that should instill a sense of peace and humanity.
I want to bring that back. I want empathy to be the trending hashtag. I am planning on entering the media-fueled craft of journalism because I am unshakably captivated by people's reactions to things. I watch movies seven times over with seven different people just to see how they'll all feel about the first song in the closing credits. I want to see people understand the news like they're part of it every day. I don't want people to watch what happens; I want them to feel like a bystander, a part of the world. And if we plan on becoming a more well-functioning society, we better be prepared to make some amendments. Perhaps it would be a good idea to clarify my definition of the ideal media.
First of all, I'm so sick of the global mindset being "screw the media." People put a lot of blame on the communications/advertising monopoly of the world for a lot of the problems going on. However, I feel it so necessary to point out that it's not the creators, the entertainment journalists, or the Red Carpet hosts. It is the perpetuated dominance of many of their employers that insist on creating a world always suitable for men and occasionally dressy for women. It's the desire to make money on the struggles and insecurities of specifically our most beautiful public figures. It's the people who allow these happenings to be broadcasted in full view, in plain sight. We should not censor the truth, but refrain from fantasizing it. What I have understood and realized from my consumerism of the industry is that entertainment news, tabloids, and any other public outlets, are not the problem. The people who fake stories, tweak quotes and obliterate truth are.
Before I become too pessimistic, I do acknowledge and understand that there are many talented individuals out there who are supremely ready and willing to report the most sincere stories. I am so stoked to be friends and coworkers with those individuals.
Right now, though, I want to address how the general idea of media has given media itself a bad name. Media is the content that is used to create more content. Media is meant to provide research and inspiration. Media is not the size of Beyonce's waistline. Media is the tool that was originally designed to instill more creativity and appreciation in a world that loves to design. Media is not which boyfriend Taylor Swift just wrote about. Media is giving people the time to smile in photos snapped on a first date in the middle of Central Park. Media is not what someone wore into rehab or out of Starbucks. Media is expressing, without stigmatizing, how people act, feel and behave.
Don't get me wrong: Media is and will always be about getting the scoop; the honest and wise scoop that may just end up being juicy and addictive, but should DEFINITELY end up being real and impactful. My remarkable journalism teacher once told me "Everybody has a story. You just have to go out and find what makes it worth telling." With that in mind, I can't help but think we live in a culture that tends to write too much fiction about real life characters that already have enough to say.
So then, it's logical to believe that the best parts of media ask the right questions and do not reach too far into an abyss to get the answers. It's about comforting your sources by asking "how are you doing?" as sincerely as possible before the interview formally begins. Media is about caring enough about the story and the subject matter as much as you care about your audience. Media is not "giving the people what they want" -- it's proving to them what they need. And what we need is care and consideration. People want to know you care to cover them, to photograph them, to present them to others to help their success and to further their ingenuity. Media can so easily encourage and constructively criticize at the same time. Not in the bittersweet, unbelievable way, but in the genuine, "WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU" kind of way. We aren't here to force beliefs or ostracize truths. We are here to cover like a blanket the stories and humans that deserve to be kept warm.
That being said, I'm excited. I believe we are heading into a hopeful future, one with more cameras than ever before, yet one less unbelievable talent. With the utmost respect and dedication to Philip Seymour Hoffman and to all others of his kind, I hope you are encouraged to care, to consider and to communicate in peace.
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