Jackson Jury Adjourns While Media Drools
The jury in the Michael Jackson case has adjourned for the weekend — leaving a news media camped out in Santa Maria (and elsewhere) drooling in anticipation of a week that’s expected to be one of the biggest ever for celebrity journalism in print, on cable and on the airwaves.
You could call this a “media circus” — except modern day circuses aren’t that big and no longer employ freak shows:
About 2,200 members of the media have received credentials to cover Michael Jackson’s trial â€” more than the O.J. Simpson and Scott Peterson murder trials combined and enough to form a vast, humming tent city outside the modest courthouse.
Reporters from every continent but Antarctica are covering a story that has attracted perhaps the largest-ever media contingent for a criminal trial.
The satellite trucks and portable toilets function at all hours, since foreign correspondents must file past midnight to meet deadlines an ocean away.
Major TV networks have committed dozens of staff members. Nearly four miles of television cables snake around the complex. The explosion of phone calls that a verdict will trigger prompted some news organizations to install land lines for fear the region’s cell networks could become jammed.
The reporters do their work as Jackson fans crowded behind a chain-link fence hurl insults. On Thursday, Court TV anchor Diane Dimond was granted a restraining order barring an 18-year-old man from interfering with her work.
As jury deliberations in the child-molestation case reached the one-week mark Friday, about half of the credentialed crew of media members milled around outside.
The crowd of reporters is distinctly international, a reminder that Jackson’s popularity remains intense outside the United States. News organizations from more than 30 countries are here.
“This trial is the perfect intersection of sex, crime and celebrity,” said Jonathan Wilcox, an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Journalism. “It makes it very much one-of-a-kind for the media.”
“Sex, crime and celebrity” — wasn’t that the description Rush Limbuagh recently used to describe the Clinton administration? The AP notes:
Deliberations have spanned about 281/2 hours over six days since the panel got the case late on June 3.
The lengthening deliberations means more waiting for the huge throng of news media and Jackson fans who have kept vigil outside the courthouse and the singer’s Neverland ranch.
Before deliberations began Judge Rodney Melville told Jackson he could stay home during deliberations and would have about an hour to get to court when a verdict was reached.
A swift departure of vehicles from Neverland near midday triggered the interest of news media, but the caravan did not go to the courthouse.
Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a 13-year-old cancer survivor in 2003, giving him alcohol and conspiring to hold the boy and his family against their will to get them to rebut a damaging television documentary about the pop star.
Security measures have been stepped up since the jury began its deliberations last week.
The bottom line is: this will be a key week in the news media:
- If Jackson is acquitted there will stories looking into whether he was the victim of a shakedown or whether, as in the conventional wisdom on O.J. Simpson, celebrity helped him get a verdict that your accused neighbor Harold Schwarz would never have gotten. It will also spark a massive “Michael Jackson watch” for future sightings of him with kids. The tabloids will have a ball and the mainstream news media will want to beat the tabloids to the key stories. If Jackson is acquitted the prosecution case will be blasted by legal talking heads on cable as inept.
- If Jackson is convicted, there will be some stories about how he was possibly set up but those would mostly be op-ed pieces. Most news outlets can be expected to run what will in effect be Jackson’s political obituary. Stories will also look into what happens to his Beatles music catalogue and what kind of life he can expect in jail. And, of course, there will be the suicide watch — but don’t open any emails with attatchments about that. If Jackson is convicted positive aspects of the prosecution case will be praised by legal talking heads on cable as strategically skillful.
- If there’s a hung jury the prosecution case will be analyzed and the story will stay in firmly in the news. If there’s a hung jury the prosecution case will be blasted by legal talking heads on cable as inept.
One way or another the Jackson case will be in the news — a lot — this week. Unless the jury needs more than another week to decide.
UPDATE: A new book by Jackson’s former public relations man Bob Jones is about to come out and according to Fox News it will be a real shocker (and it’s good for Jackson that it didn’t come out a month ago).