Don Lemon on Covering the Michael Jackson Trial: Lots of Emotion, Little Sleep

By Merrill Knox 

For CNN weekend anchor Don Lemon, who has been the network’s lead reporter on Michael Jackson since his death in 2009, the ongoing trial of Conrad Murray has dredged up some old challenges.

“Here’s the interesting thing: it’s been hard and easy at the same time,” Lemon, who spent last week in Los Angeles reporting on the first week of the trial, told TVNewser recently. “It’s been hard in the sense that the hours are ridiculous. You don’t get much sleep. But, for me, it has also been a natural fit. I know the story like the back of my hand. I grew up listening to the Jackson 5. I knew about Michael Jackson, and his challenges, and about all of it.”

Lemon said his personal interest in Jackson — who he called an “accidental thought leader” of this generation — elevated his reporting capabilities.

“After my first couple of live shots, I realized that not everyone, and especially not the young reporters, really knew the story,” he said. “I just started taking the lead. At press conferences I was asking question after question after question. I can own the story because I can relate to it.”

Lemon — who called the experience of sitting in the courtroom next to Jackson’s family “heartwrenching” — said the best thing he can do for his viewers is to be honest.

“You just tell it like it is,” he said. “We’re human as reporters, and the audience appreciates that, a human reporter who can convey emotion. That’s what makes people look up at the television and pay attention, not sterilized reporting that people see all day, every day. People want to stay and watch you if they want to connect with you.”