If you have been paying attention the last few days, you may have noticed a change in the format of this blog. Originally started as way of communicating a short paragraph of my daily thoughts, the commentary got longer and longer as the days went by. Because of this, and because of reader feedback, I am adding paragraph breaks.
On Friday, I was writing about the over-the-top media frenzy surrounding disgraced South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who a day earlier had given a long and rambling news conference explaining his disappearance from the state for six days while he was having an extra-marital affair in Argentina. In mid-sentence, Michael Jackson died. I had to switch gears and change the subject. Hence: paragraph breaks.
My wife was on her computer and she yelled over to me that Michael Jackson was hospitalized. I walked over to her computer and on her Twitter feed, the words came up that stunned the nation and the world: "Michael Jackson died." The news came that fast. One second he's hospitalized, the next second he's dead. A day earlier he was rehearsing for a comeback tour which was to start in London.
The world is a different place than when I was a kid - when Walter Cronkite wiped tears from his eyes after telling the nation the John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. The news filtered slowly through a cumbersome method of news gathering such as the Associated Press news wire, the land line telephone, and fact-checkers who had to wait in line for verification before confirming events. There was no cable news and no Internet, so hours went by before we got official confirmation on the evening news. Walter Cronkite was the bearer of bad news. But there was a certain comfort hearing it from "Uncle Walt".
When Michael Jackson died, the news spread throughout the world instantaneously. Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites helped spread the news. Rumor turned into facts in a matter of minutes, and within a half-hour of his death, Michael Jackson was the story on every channel, and not just the news channels.
As news of Jackson's death came in, nearly every broadcast station cut away from regular programming to report on the sudden events. The cable channels stayed with the story almost exclusively for the next few days. Other news topics were ignored, although there wasn't much to report about Jackson, other than he most likely died of cardiac arrest. The rumor that drugs played a part in his death came in slowly, but we had heard drug rumors when he was alive. Once this issue was explored, the media spent hours looking for news that wasn't there.
To say the media was unprepared is an understatement. The biggest news that came out was that people were originally putting flowers on the wrong star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The pop icon's star was covered up by a red carpet for a premier of Sasha Baron Cohen's movie "Bruno". 73-year-old English-born radio personality Michael Jackson's star covered by flowers and surrounded by fans of the other, more famous Michael Jackson. Of course, the dead Michael Jackson happened to be more famous than anyone.
No matter what you may think of his private life, the eccentric oddball with the common name was anything but common. The lawsuits and legal settlements, which caused embarrassment but never a conviction for anything, are a thing of the past. His fans are numerous, and he is even bigger in other parts of the world. There are those who haven't forgotten the scandals that plagued Jackson over the latter part of his life, and many people believe he is guilty of something. But there's no denying his popularity, and in death, Michael Jackson is being remembered for his groundbreaking musical career.
The best-selling album of all time: "Thriller". Now, thanks to his death, Michael Jackson is again outselling everybody else. A day after his death, Amazon.com announced that sales of Michael Jackson's music were up 721 times what they were before he died. That's 72,100%. Correct me if I'm wrong.
For the record: Because news events happen so quickly, and I type over 75 words a minute, I am no more immune to mistakes than other news outlets. I said in Friday's column that toxicology reports would be released in a little over a week. The actual time is four to six weeks. So, now, even though we are getting other news mixed in with news of the death of "The King of Pop," expect the story to continue.
We've heard from Quincy Jones, Liza Minelli, Elizabeth Taylor and even Corey Feldman. Larry King has turned up little-known friends to interview. Michael Jackson will remain in the news for awhile. And thanks to him, I'm now using paragraph breaks.