The Mainstream Media's Schizophrenic Coverage of Michael Jackson's Death

07/31/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The mainstream media is really a strange and funny thing. Even after all these years of doing what it does, it still can't decide if it wants to be a source of facts, a go-to place for what's happening, a tabloid, a gossip source, a place to go for all things negative or maybe even something else. Maybe the pressure from online sources like The Huffington Post and others have added to their schizophrenia or maybe it is the declining readership and viewer ship that is causing the problem. And getting their butts whipped regularly by shows such as TMZ and even the National Enquirer on some stories cannot be a good sign. But nothing demonstrates what's wrong with the MSM more than its coverage of Michael Jackson's death.

TMZ got the story first and got it right, not the MSM. In fact one major media source actually put out the wrong story, stating Michael had gone into a coma, when in fact he had died. But as slow as they were to get the story right, once they caught up, the mainstream media was all over it, pretty much becoming all Michael, all the time. While their focus on the story was understandable considering the impact Michael had around the world, if you know the media then you know the most dangerous time for them is when they are forced to fill air space when there is not much of real news value for them to show or talk about. It is in these situations that we get talking heads who have no real relation to the story or who would not otherwise get a spot on a broadcast, and it is when the media is apt to broadcast nothing more than gossip in an attempt to keep viewers and supposedly give them something of interest.

But in the case of the Michael Jackson story, the worst part of these air-filling and schizophrenic behaviors occurred, the inevitable decision to go negative and try to find and report on as much salacious detail as possible. Which was really odd to watch as they would in one report praise Michael as the best thing to happen to music, and in the very next one, harp on his flaws and money problems. It was as if in his death they could not decide which image they most wanted to focus on. And sense they had time to fill, they went with both.

Don't get me wrong, I understand that Michael had personal and business issues. But in the hours, even days, following his death, where is the respect that you would think be accorded someone who has accomplished so much? As I watched reports, mostly CNN, but others as well, even within the hour of reports on his death, the media were reporting on Michael's financial problems, his legal troubles, his purported child molestation accusations. I am not saying these matters are not fair game in the big picture about Michael Jackson and his life. But really is there no respect accorded a person who has just died and who has undeniably accomplished so much in his lifetime? Not even the media tries to deny MJ's impact on music, on culture, and on the world. Why not cover that for at least a day. Surely there was another time to bring up all the dirt that could be brought to the fore, because in the end, we certainly knew the dirt would be brought up.

Michael Jackson was in many ways a media dream, no doubt. He brought it all to the table - fame, wealth, talent, quirks, flaws, scandal, and an extreme following the likes of which are rarely seen. So it is easy to see why the media would focus on his death and story. And he deserved to get as much attention as he has gotten in these last few days. However, what he didn't deserve was to become a source for the MSM to focus on all they could bring up that was wrong about this icon. Their attempts to air special reports and lead-out tribute clips to Michael Jackson's musical impact and legacy certainly rang hollow when bookmarked by unnecessary negative reports about his problems. You can't build someone up while simultaneously tearing them down.

And for me it was just another chance to celebrate the fact that the days are indeed numbered for the MSM, at least as the main source for news for Americans. And in the end, it is obvious they will have no one to blame but themselves.