The Fickle Media Machine

The Fickle Media Machine


Glenn Reynolds criticizes the media — and I completely agree with him:

A TV LOW POINT: Turned on the TV to see Geraldo interviewing Tommy Mottola about Michael Jackson’s death. In the background, footage of the body being delivered to the coroner’s office by helicopter. Glad to see Fox is keeping us up on what’s really important, the night before a big cap-and-trade vote in Congress, while revolution simmers in Iran, and people are trying to nationalize healthcare.

On the upside, Mark Sanford is probably pleased.

Andrew Sullivan foresaw it right away:

Michael Jackson: Cardiac Arrest?

That’s what TMZ is reporting. So cable coverage of Iran is now over.

I could have told you that as soon as I found out about his passing.

The way that I see it, the media (cable news in particular) are collectively akin to a three-year-old child. Anytime something new and shiny comes along, they become completely entranced by its presence — to the point of near-obsession. However, the enchantment lasts only a few news cycles (save for OJ, Chandra Levy and perhaps that blonde girl who went missing in Aruba) and then the fickle media throws down their metaphorical toy and starts whining for something newer, better and — if possible — sexier.

Call it what you want. I call it sad — especially when you have a humanitarian issue such as Iran right in front of you. Sexy it is not, but important it definitely is.

Don’t get me wrong, I am distraught by the passing of The King Of Pop — I just fear that other very important stories will now be buried by the wall-to-wall coverage of Michael Jackson.

[cross-posted at]

  • Agnostick
  • kranky kritter

    I don’t even get being distraught. A talented aging pop star died. So what? The only thing I’m distraught about is how difficult it will be to avoid the 24-7 balls to the wall overkill, followed by the inevitable retrospectives and special issues.

    I don’t think fickle is the right word by the way. Fickle implies hard to predict. This reaction is very predictable. Because ratings are what matter, an entertainer’s passing will be covered with at least as much coverage as the death of a president or king or a natural disaster.

    So, let the revisionism begin. Put the young normal looking pre-pedophile pre-goblin Jackson on a postage stamp like the Young Pretty Elvis. Don’t anyone dare go to the Michael Jackson funeral and ask the attendees who the Vice President is, which Korea is an ally of our country, or where Argentina is.

  • Jake

    MJ sleeps alone at last.

  • Jack

    I have the same comment/question every time I see something along these lines: To what extent to you think the media is giving the American public exactly what they want, in contrast with a mistaken impression on the part of the network controllers decisions as to what they want us to want? I assume the former Examining the incredible popularity of the trashiest, most tabloid infested television shows leads me to believe that the MSM is directly marketing to the average america rather than manufacturing interest in shallow, easy stories. The media reports excessively on MJ today at the expense of Iran because we, the general populace, demand it.

  • Paul

    Why should I trust the media ? It’s about ratings and money. Not an Edward R. Murrow anywhere. Media types are “personalities”. I’l use the BBC or Reuters for my information.

  • Nick Benjamin

    I’m not sure I’d say I’m distraught over MJ’s death. It’s always a tragedy when somebody dies, but if you get distraught when complete strangers die you’re gonna spend your whole damn life distraught.

    They aren’t dumping Iran coverage just because most people are more interested in Michael Jackson. They’re dumping it because it’s really, really expensive and really, really hard. You need people to translate Farsi, probably some folks to translate other Iranian languages like Azeri or Kurdish. You need to talk to obscure Iran-watchers who live along way from your base of operations in NY, LA, and/or Atlanta. Places like Ann Arbor, or Fargo. Ideally you have folks monitoring twitter, Facebook, the Iranian state media, and Al Jazeera 24-7. This is al very expensive,and requires that you bring in skilled outsiders because there ain’t no way CNN has enough Farsi speakers already on staff to do all that shit.

    OTOH for the MJ story you’ve already got scores of reporters on the ground covering the entertainment beat in LA. All those guys have to do is camp out at the coroner’s office and maybe a few other places. Send somebody to Gary, try to put a tail on the rest of the Jackson Five, have the stay-at-homes in NYC and Atlanta talk to random fans about Michael, and *poof* you just filled most of your programming day without going a single penny over your normal operating budget.

  • the Word

    I’m reminded of an old National Lampoon record with a truism. “We play a lot of shit, but that’s what you want to hear” There is no other explanation for Fox.

  • Tully

    Why should I trust the media ?

    You shouldn’t, Paul. At their best they’re like Wikipedia — someplace to get a starting point for research, but not to be trusted for accuracy.

  • Tully

    PS — “Cardiac arrest” is just a term meaning “He’s dead, Jim.” It’s NOT a cause of death, it’s a definiton of death. Heart quit beating and won’t start again, you dead. Find out WHY the heart quit beating, and you have a cause of death. OD, heart disease, arrhythmia, bradycardia, anoxia, transecting .357 caliber projectile, whatever.

    Something to remember when you hear “died of cardiac arrest” from the media. It means “He’s suddenly dead and we don’t know why, but he wasn’t abruptly and obviously dismembered and/or decapitated.”