Posted on 07/28/2017 in Entertainment

To Beyoncé or Not to Beyoncé: The Challenges of Confirming the Birth of Her Twins

To Beyoncé or Not to Beyoncé: The Challenges of Confirming the Birth of Her Twins

Reports that Beyoncé had given birth to twins started to trickle onto Twitter on a Saturday night in mid-June, and from that trickle a flood ensued. Most fans were elated, posting memes and GIFs galore.

Before long, more and more media outlets were reporting the news: People, Entertainment Tonight, CNN. Even The Washington Post published a take, which was, for good reason, the most reserved. Why? Because no one from Beyoncé’s camp had confirmed the births, and there was nothing from Jay-Z’s team either.

All the organizations that were reporting the delivery were citing anonymous sources or relying on the outlets using unnamed sources.

I wrote a piece that night with a “media frenzy” angle, our original peg, similar to the “did she or didn’t she” story The Post published the next day. But I had a niggling feeling in my gut.

At that hour, without the help of our research team, I wasn’t able to obtain the contact information for Beyoncé’s representatives, her talent agency or her publicist. Even if I had roused a culture editor for the information, it would have been highly unlikely for her reps to respond so late at night. It didn’t feel right to move forward, and we decided to put off publishing until the next day.


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By the time I arrived at work that Sunday, my colleague had reached out to one of Beyoncé’s reps, but there was no response. Sure, we’d tried, but was that enough to run with?

At The New York Times, obtaining independent confirmation is the standard for all our reporting, births and deaths included. Carefully vetting the reliability of different sources is paramount. And we relentlessly try to get our query to an actual person — by calling, emailing and using social media. The effort is not always fruitful, particularly when wading into a sea of unknown sources.

Once I received her representatives’ contact information, I tried repeatedly, but made no headway. (One person even hung up on me as soon as I said “Beyoncé.”)

In a situation this sensitive, was it in bad taste to publish a lighthearted article about the rumors? Was it ethical?

A report from The Daily News that Sunday suggested that the mother and babies were still in the hospital because of a “minor issue,” muddying the waters. TMZ reported on June 23 that the babies were premature and therefore still in the hospital, but the source was unnamed.

That Sunday morning, Beyoncé’s father, Mathew Knowles, tweeted that the twins had been born, and a Reuters wire story soon came through The Times feed. That might seem like reason enough to move forward, but after some back and forth with a few top editors who had been weighing in along the way, it became apparent that Mr. Knowles is known to sometimes be out of the family loop. Maybe he was responding to media reports as well.

Sometimes a story can sit completed for hours — or, like in this case, weeks — just waiting for that official word. It’s crucial for us to remember that when a story is published by The Times it becomes part of the historical record, so giving in to the knee-jerk impulse to go for the clicks or be part of the conversation is unwise.

Even presenting both sides — here are the fans who are excited and here are the fans who are skeptical — was not good enough.

Some of you might be thinking, “Come on. She clearly had those babies. Why be so picky?” I get it. And perhaps another scenario wouldn’t require this level of vigilance. But in this case, there were far more — and more significant — unknowns than knowns. It wasn’t worth the gamble.

Few stars succeed in controlling their celebrity the way Beyoncé does. She surely has a whole entourage of people guarding her information — an operation that’s running headlong into a massive rumor mill with seemingly endless claims from dubious sources.

Throughout her pregnancy, Beyoncé took her fans on a glamorous journey of maternity fashion, artistically documenting her progress on social media, so it would make sense for her to announce her twins’ birth in similar fashion. In the end, that’s exactly what she did.