Pretty sure everyone’s eyeballs deep in Michael Jackson coverage.
Here’s how the AP put it:
Michael Jackson, the sensationally gifted child star who rose to become the “King of Pop” and the biggest celebrity in the world only to fall from his throne in a freaskish series of scandals, died Thursday. He was 50.
Whew. Way to drop the whole story in the 32-word phrase between the subject and the verb. But that’s what inverted pyramid journalism does: tells as much of the story as quickly as possible so you can stop reading after a paragraph or two.
What interests me is not how quickly people heard, or even what they heard. I’m curious to know what they turned on to hear. Because where people go to get their news says more about the society than the speed, accuracy or depth of where they turned.
Here’s my gut reaction:
Most people probably “heard” through a non-traditional source. For example, I got an NPR update on my Twitter feed (OK, nerd alert). But then, to check it, I turned on the television. To CNN specifically, but the television.
Now my gut tells me that more people found out this way — either through traditional news outlets online or through social media sites like Twitter — than ever before. My gut also tells me that most people probably did the same thing: turn on the TV. TV was the main source.
So? What’s the point? Here’s the point: Internet media (even through “traditional” sources: N.Y. Times, CNN online, etc.) play second fiddle to television. That means that even though technology and social media and instant information are the darlings of our palm-sized world, it’s still television that remain the big banana. That also means that how television — regardless of the specific channel — tells the story sets the pace for everyone else.
So, think about how you heard and what you did to find out. And let me know.
P.S.: It’s a shame that Jackson’s death comes so close to Farrah Fawcett’s death. It’s also interesting to note that her death is largely pushed aside because of it. But there’s an explanation. The nation has been grieving Farrah for a while now. We got a documentary. We got continual coverage when we wanted it. Michael Jackson’s death was sudden.
So even though cancer is an “important” national story, a shocking death to a controversial figure — oddity, celebrity, and timeliness in journalism parlance — will always take the lead.