Doug Gamble- Contributor
Gamble is a former writer for President Ronald Reagan and
in Carmel. [go to Gamble index]
Of course the cable coverage of Michael’s trial will
[Doug Gamble] 2/16/05
what has to be among the more laughable observations in recent
times, executives of
two of the country’s all-news networks, CNN and MSNBC, say they
foresee restraint in coverage of the Michael Jackson child molestation trial
in Santa Maria. If ever there were an oxymoron it’s the words “cable
MSNBC’s vice president of news and daytime
programming, said of the Jackson case, “It’s certainly
not going to dominate our air.” According to CNN chief
executive Jonathan Klein, “You might see a dwindling of
interest.” These remarks were apparently delivered with
a straight face.
Klein’s statement might be easier to believe if CNN had
not led several newscasts with the “news” that jury
selection for the Jackson trial would begin the next day, on
the same Sunday Iraqis were in the process of making history
by risking their lives voting. The fact is, if Michael Jackson
did not exist the all-news networks would have to invent him
for the kind of coverage that gets ratings. Heck, they’d
have to invent California, since this state offers up so much
of what it takes to get cable news executives salivating.
networks know they get more viewers with titillation than they
on President George W. Bush’s proposed
social security reform or Mideast peace talks. That’s why
it’s disingenuous for MSNBC and CNN -- both in desperate
need of ratings -- to pretend that they will follow the Greek
philosophy of moderation in all things in their approach to Jackson.
to the summer of 2001. The lead story on cable, day after day
week after week, despite a lack of new developments,
was “Where is Chandra Levy?” the missing former Washington
intern, later found murdered, with alleged but unproven romantic
links to Modesto-area Congressman Gary Condit. The sex and homicide
saga was not eclipsed as top story until the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
the Fox News Channel is not pretending the Jackson trial will
its schedule. On the contrary, the insufferable
egomaniac Geraldo Rivera is set to spend the length of the trial
doing all he can to tout the ex-superstar’s innocence.
And in an example of the kind of journalism that must have the
late Edward R. Murrow beaming with pride at what his profession
has become, Rivera promises to shave off his moustache if Jackson
Rivera’s kissing of Jackson’s ring, if not lower,
resulted in an exclusive interview in which the washed-up entertainer
was able to project sainthood, and possibly influence potential
jurors, without being cross-examined. A similar softball forum
was afforded Jackson’s mother by Fox’s Rita Cosby.
I doubt the prosecution considers this fair and balanced.
to our fame-obsessed culture to make celebrities out of celebrity-watchers.
of many examples is Fox News Channel’s
Greta Van Susteren who no one outside her family, friends and
colleagues had ever heard of until her TV exposure as a commentator
during the O.J. Simpson trial. Reduced to covering obscure missing
person cases since the Scott Peterson trial ended, Jackson trial
testimony can’t begin soon enough for her.
Fame has also come to Court TV’s Diane Dimond, once a correspondent for
the defunct TV magazine show “Hard Copy,” who broke the story of
Jackson reaching an out-of-court settlement with another alleged young molestation
victim 12 years ago. She has built a career as the go-to person on all things
Jackson trial America’s latest zoo and the all-news
networks the zookeepers, brace yourself for mostly Michael most
of the time in the months ahead. Especially with sordid testimony
and a potential witness list that includes actor Macaulay Culkin,
and ex-wives Lisa Maria Presley and Debbie Rowe.
If the three
major broadcast networks ever scrap their evening newscasts,
often rumored, “Titillation TV” is
all we’ll have left for news on the tube. Let’s hope
the printed press hangs in for the long haul. tRO
California-based Doug Gamble contributed speech material to
Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and writes a twice-monthly
column for the Orange County Register and CaliforniaRepublic.org.
2004 Doug Gamble