Sitting in a Boeing 737, looking down at Parliament house en route to Melbourne and I can't help but wonder whether or not Tom Petty is still alive or not. I realise that, given the lack of Wifi and phone reception on the flight, that statement could technically apply to anybody back on Earth, but in this particular instance that sentence holds an extra level of confusion, as when I boarded the plane, half of the internet was saying that he was alive, while the other half were falling over each other to be the first to confirm his death.
I'm not sure if there's an official term in the world of churnalism for this practice, I'm not a real journalist after all, but FFS, are we really at a point of desperation to be the first with a tragic headline that we're willing to confirm the death of a human when they're technically still alive? Yes Rolling Stone, I'm looking at you.
Now I fully realise that by the time you get to read this article, Tom Petty, a truly fantastic musician, will probably have passed on. Given that, according to all reputable media outlets, he was found unconscious and not breathing in his Malibu home this morning, and that doctors said that following a massive heart attack, he had no brain function, and also the fact that as a result of this, his family decided to switch off life-support, the chances of a recovery by this stage are pretty damn slim. But to say he's dead when he's not is simply unfair. Unfair to his family - his kids (his daughter already spectacularly Instagrammed a statement)
Tom Petty, with his band The Heartbreakers, as well as with his collaborative folk/rock supergrouop The Traveling Wilburys, was responsible for some remarkable music. His songs are inspired and yet reflective of a the most droll parts of the human condition. They're funny and demure – hopeful but realistic. Timeless, too. Whether or not he's still with us when this plane lands, his music will continue to live. And hopefully we can all learn a valuable lesson, and pull the plug on shonky journalism. It's one thing to respect the dead, but this should be especially so when they're still alive.
Vale Tom Petty 1950-2017 (probably – who knows).