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News outlets plug into MJ craze

Date: 7/13/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

Now that it's almost all said and done I have to ask the question: Am I the only person on the planet who really didn't understand all of the angst displayed about Michael Jackson?

Is there anyone out there like me who couldn't muster sustained interest in the final Jackson drama?

I was never a fan. I never bought "Thriller." I never tried to do the moonwalk. Even so, I would readily admit that Jackson was very talented. Yes, he was a master of self-promotion Jackson himself placed a lot of those odd stories. I admired the carny spirit that he clearly embraced.

Is it a shame he died so young and left three kids? Yes.

Yes, he came from a messed up childhood. That was sad as well.

And yes, he was very, very strange.

Whether or not he was ever a criminal is now a moot point.

But did his death really deserve the 24/7 coverage it received? My answer is no, but then again what do I know? When I once questioned the news judgment of big TV I received a snotty tut-tut letter from a reader who basically said, "They know best."

Edward R. Murrow and his contemporaries knew news. Does Matt Lauer? Meredith Viera? The talking heads of the evening newscasts? No. The programming they help create proves it endless hours of useless talk about soft fluffy subjects.

The point is really what I and you don't know, and there were plenty of things happening during that time that certainly got squeezed out of the public's awareness by all of the Jackson news. North Korea shooting off missiles and generally mis-behaving is real news. The president and his activities is real news. The debate on healthcare is real news.

Mainstream media loves an event like the Jackson death hoopla because it's easy. Set your cameras up in key locations. Interview the people who willingly want to speak about the deceased. Go to the memorial service.

That is a lot easier and cheaper than reporting from Iraq or Afghanistan. It's flashier than preparing a story about how European healthcare systems work and whether or not a single pay system would work here. Jackson's death created content with buzz, not thought, not challenges.

Now, I'm no snob. I love all sorts of politically questionable movies and television. But they don't package themselves as "news." They present themselves as the modern opiate of the people they really are.

The basic dishonesty of too much of today's news media is what bothers me. Don't call yourself something you're not. If you want to cover a story such as this one, fine, but don't frame it as hard news.


I have heard from one of the finalists from the recent "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" program shot in the Massachusetts town of Suffield, Conn., and from several of the folks who applied for help from the show.

I am compiling a list of some of the needs as I learn of them and I will write about those needs in the future to see if our community can help out some folks.

I'm happy to report the family from Easthampton who was a finalist is getting some assistance in several necessary home renovations from their church and community.

If you were a finalist, give me a call at 525-3247 ext. 103. Thanks.

This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments to or to 280 N. Main St., E. Longmeadow, Mass. 01028.