This Just In: Michael Jackson, Still Dead

There's been a nagging suspicion in many enlightened journalistic quarters that the Michael Jackson story has been massively overplayed in the media, especially by TV news (even NBC Nightly News led with the story most nights last week, which was ridiculous). 

It was quite apparent that Baby Boomer media managers—out of touch with popular culture and audience interest, but obsessed with a performer from their youth who hasn't been relevant for years—were staying with the Jackson story even though they didn't understand that people really were over it. Indeed, Jeff Jarvis supplied some great data last week that showed that, measured by hard data on Internet searches and blog conversations, interest in all things Jackson had dropped precipitously after the first couple of days.

But the TV talking heads and cameras and helicopters droned on, providing unrelenting coverage on most of the major networks of a story that basically was over once the coroner declared the singer dead. This culminated with live coverage by most networks today of Jackson's funeral, in LA, replete with breathless predictions that hundreds of thousands of mourners would pack the streets around the Staples Center for his memorial service.

Um, not so much. The AP reports:

The traffic snarls and logistical nightmares that had been feared by police and city officials had not materialized. The thousands of fans with tickets began filing in early and encountered few problems, and traffic was actually considered by police to be lighter than normal.

"I think people got the message to stay home," said California Highway Patrol Officer Miguel Luevano. "When you have people staying home, it clears up those freeways."

Deputy Police Chief Sergio Diaz, operations chief for the event, said authorities had expected a crowd of 250,000. Besides reporters and those with tickets to the memorial service, the crowd around the Staples Center perimeter numbered only about 1,000, he said.

Only 1,000 people? When 250,000 were expected? That's some lousy predicting, but it was doubtless fed by media hype. We haven't seen the ratings yet on today's wall-to-wall coverage, but I suspect they're going to be similarly paltry (there's some indications of heavy Web traffic to streaming video of the memorial service, but that may reflect a curiosity factor that's going on while people are at work). Jackson's death was a big story, but it was over in a day or two. By sticking with it and flogging it, big media showed, once again, that it's out of step with its audience.

Update: Turns out the Jackson memorial service was boffo on the Internet. Go figure. But I suspect that had a lot to do with it happening while people were at work, and streaming the video on their office PCs. (Hell, I watched it, out of morbid curiosity.) As Dan Woog notes in the comments, Facebook saw a bunch of MJ-related activity, too, though nothing close to the Obama inauguration. But I think the lack of crowds in LA was very telling. And I hope that the story will just go away now. At least until the toxicology report is in!

3 thoughts on “This Just In: Michael Jackson, Still Dead

  1. HELL YES! I have come periously close to smashing my TV every time I turn on the news. Good thing there’s nothing important happening in the real world (aka, anywhere other than LA).


  2. I thought it was overplayed too. BUT, on Facebook this afternoon, the number of my friends who wrote lengthy comments on the funeral — and who were really moved by the service — was phenomenal. I would never have suspected that some of these folks would care — but they did. And they spanned a variety of age groups, including high school and college people.
    Also, Facebook recorded more status updates and other Jackson-related action today than they did during the Obama inauguration — the previous high.
    So something is afoot. I just have no idea what it is.


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