THE BLOG

Reporting on the Dead

01/24/2008 05:36 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Since we learned of actor Heath Ledger's untimely death on Tuesday afternoon, the basic fact is that until additional tests have been conducted, the autopsy is incomplete and inconclusive as to why this 28-year-old man died. That's what we know.

Let's get to what we don't know: his death was a tragic accident, or something to the contrary. Until we know for sure, I think the media should just shut their mouths and stop all the speculation that's been running rampant.

This man has a two-year-old daughter. His family is going through the worst time in their lives. Their hearts are broken, they're numb, they can't understand what's going on right now. Michelle Williams is trying to figure out how to explain to their little girl that she will never see her daddy again. It's heartbreaking, tragic, and it's being used to fuel our never ceasing desire to eavesdrop on the lives of others.

Please let them grieve in privacy and dignity for a few days at least for goodness sake. As far as I'm aware, Heath Ledger never did anything but conduct himself in the most respectful and charismatic way. He gave us exactly what we asked of him -- good entertainment and our $12 worth when we sat our butts in the seats of a movie theater. He made his living in the entertainment business, but he purposely chose not to make his life that way. He was by all accounts a normal guy in every way, a regular dad who was often photographed walking down the streets of Manhattan or Brooklyn with his daughter, Matilda.

The scene outside his apartment on the night Ledger died made me sick to my stomach. People gawking and waiting around for a body bag to be removed. I have been at similar scenes in my work as an assistant district attorney. And let me tell you, if you don't have to be there, you wouldn't want to be. It's morbid. Someone who was loved is in that bag... and trust me it takes more than a minute to get used to that.

And when actress Michelle Williams and her daughter arrived home in Brooklyn, the scene was just as bad. Instead of being allowed to enter her home in privacy, she had to endure the flashbulbs of the paparazzi waiting to snap the money shot. How she explained that to her child through her grief is something I hope never to experience.

Might I suggest that we in the media, instead of reporting on the dead based on gossip, rumor, innuendo and anonymous sources, choose to honor this man's memory based on his talent and the good taste we all should be exercising. My heart goes out to the family of Heath Ledger.