Recapping the Jackson Around the Media

By kevin 

Katie Couric interviewing Stevie Wonder during CBS News coverage

After yesterday’s incredible Jackson extravaganza (the likes of which we may not see again in our lifetime), it’s time to take a look at some analysis of the coverage.

B&C reports on how the news media struggled to strike the right balance in Jackson’s narrative between his legacy as a cultural icon and the more controversial moments of his very public and troubled life:

In the surreal run-up to Jackson’s extravagant public memorial service at the Staples Center in Los Angeles Tuesday, television anchors struck a more balanced tone, acknowledging, if not quite scrutinizing, the more problematic aspects of Jackson’s life.

“A lot of people think he should not be getting the attention he is,” said Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum.

“We can’t ignore certain aspects of his life,” said NBC’s Lester Holt during a discussion with Brian Williams about Jackson’s 2005 trial and the child-sex-abuse allegations.

The AP’s David Bauder takes a look at the sheer scope of the coverage from such an odd collection of media outlets:

[ABC, MTV, Fox News Channel, BET, and ESPN News, for example] all carried at least part of the Los Angeles ceremony on Tuesday, a mix of music and remembrances capping an extraordinary dozen days of coverage since the pop star’s death from cardiac arrest on June 25.

It was a celebrity send-off unique in scale, unifying TV networks in a manner not seen since the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks. Millions of people watched worldwide on TV screens or on computer through Web sites such as TMZ and Hulu, although a backlash simmered among people who wondered whether it was too much for an entertainer.

But what about all that lost ad revenue?…

Mediaweek spoke to the COO of ad sales at CNN who expressed little concern about the loss of ad time during the broadcast and focused on the expected, massive online numbers:

For news outlets, the limited pullback on inventory during the service was merely business as usual. “We only went commercial-free during the ceremony itself, so you’re looking at just about two hours,” said Greg D’Alba, executive vp and chief operating officer, CNN Ad Sales. “We carried regular spot loads right up to and immediately afterwards and so a lot of advertisers were able to benefit from the ratings lift.”

“Linear TV is still our core business, but our reach is turbo-charged by online,” D’Alba said. “An event of this scale really tests our technology. We really believe we reached a point of maximum overload, and yet everything seemed to hold up nicely. We should get some huge numbers across the board.”

At USA Today, Robert Bianco was shocked and pleased at the glaring lack of excess commentary from the networks:

Have we ever heard so little from so many for so long on TV? For more than two hours, they spared us both explanation and introduction, apparently assuming that if we didn’t know who someone was on screen, the graphics would be prompt enough. The restraint was as unexpected as it was welcome — and let’s hope it heralds a trend.

Alessandra Stanley at the NYTimes also pointed out the conflicting images of Jackson, but ultimately noted that the event’s final moments had a way of grabbing everyone:

By the time Paris broke into sobs at the end of the service as she expressed how much she loved her father…newscasters cast aside any pretense of covering a news event and joined in the orgy of mourning. Shepard Smith of Fox News, speaking over the music in almost syncopated beat, noted: “He was a lot of different things to a lot of different people. There were days when on the cover of The New York Post, he was just ‘Wacko Jacko.’ But today, just moments ago, his daughter reminded us all he was also, Daddy.”

On CNN, even staid Wolf Blitzer got caught up in the emotion, urging his viewers to take a moment to join him in listening, once again, to Jennifer Hudson singing Mr. Jackson’s song “Will You Be There.”

Photo: Dave Malkoff