Michael Jackson and the News Media

I’m not going to try to be cute or snarky about this. Clearly, Michael Jackson’s death yesterday touched the lives of millions. And it sparked — understandably — a news media firestorm. We tend to criticize reporters and editors for their fascination with celebrities — but I expect that they ignore them at their own circulation and ratings peril. And maybe this story for me is somewhat generational. I don’t believe I ever purchased a Michael Jackson album — yet based on the tributes from yesterday and today, I’ll accept the view he was a musical icon, some personal demons notwithstanding.

From the standpoint of the news media coverage:

  • Interesting how quickly and completely the news focus can change from one story to the next. Didn’t hear much (anything?) last night from the talking head TV pundits about Iran, GM, health care, Korea and so on. Even with all the media outlets and platforms these days — old and new — it’s still pretty much one story at a time.
  • Rumors move quickly; facts not as fast. I was watching CNN at about 5:40 p.m. when it first reported that Jackson had been taken to the hospital. At about the same time,Twitter was already spreading the “news” that Jackson was dead, first reported by the Web site TMZ.com. CNN, Wall Street Journal, LA Times and others confirmed the death much later. Has the immediacy of Twitter and similar media created a new standard: get it to an audience first. The old standard was to verify and make sure it is correct. Are we OK with speed — even if it means that on occasion it will be inaccurate or incomplete?
  • Timing is everything. If Mark Sanford would have continued his “hike on the Appalachian Trail” for just one more day, there probably wouldn’t have been more than a dozen people who knew he had returned to South Carolina, or cared.
  • MSNBC can mobilize its resources for Michael Jackson coverage 24/7. But on the weekends it is mute on the crisis in Iran and everything else. Hmm.

Oh well. Heading to the weekend. And my physical therapist admitted yesterday that she had no idea how to best rehab my injured leg. But she told me to go ahead and try to run Sunday morning — and hope for the best. Here’s hoping. Woot.


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