November 21, 2003

By Michael Strickland

All Jacko, All the Time

Yesterday, television networks brought programming to a standstill with a 45-minute vigil at the Santa Barbara airport. Reporters improvised on live TV while waiting for Michael Jackson's private jet to land, cutting to images of planes landing every time they thought the superstar's jet might be arriving. In the end, cameras managed to catch a 5-second glimpse of Jackson in handcuffs.

This marks a new low for the media's obsession with capturing live news (non-)events. Broadcasting car chases is silly enough. To pre-empt programming with nearly an hour of planes taking off and landing at a municipal airport is simply laughable. Can there really be that many people captivated by the sight of Michael Jackson getting arrested? Especially when it should have been obvious that he would be released on bail almost immediately (he was). I'm thankful I was working, and thus missed experiencing this media spectacle firsthand.

I have never understood such media voyeurism, and this episode only confounds me further. Sure, the same viewers who watch daytime talk shows and soaps probably find such coverage interesting. But is it really justifiable for all networks to cover Jackson being brought to justice? On the surface, the reason behind it seems simple: the networks don't want to get scooped by their rivals for big news stories. But let's examine that logic closely. Networks make their money by broadcasting commercials. When the network loses viewers, fewer eyeballs see the commercials, and the value of those spots falls; thus, the imperative to keep viewers. But when the networks all show the same thing, commercial-free, why the same urgency? Perhaps the network producers feel that if they didn't cover such an event, their reputation as a top-notch news outlet would fall in the minds of their viewers. But that assumes that the majority of viewers believe Jackson's plane landing is a newsworthy event, an assumption that surely must rest on shaky ground (I hope).

Then again, maybe the type of people watching television at 11:00 in the morning are indeed the sort who would find such drivel newsworthy. But my questions still stand whenever a news network covers something as inane as a car chase live during prime time. I have to assume the majority of people watching TV during the evening couldn't care less about yet another car chase (again, I hope). And it seems to me that a network could easily steal viewers by not broadcasting the car chase (or the boring airport vigil), harvesting all of those wayward channel surfers looking for some real entertainment.

Unfortunately, we're sure to be force-fed live, round-the-clock coverage of the Jackson trial next year, just as we were the O.J. trial. All Jacko, All the Time, All Channels. Maybe it's time to finally kill my television.

 

©2003 Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year (almost), I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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November Columns:

11/28: Family Willow
11/27: Thankful
11/24: Nuclear North Korea
11/21: All Jacko, All the Time
11/20: Mantrimony
11/19: Tutankhamen: Page One
11/18: The Dying Light
11/16: Back to the Grind
11/13: Overpriced
11/12: Land's End
11/11: Veterans' Day
11/10: Cabo Bound
11/9: Supercharged
11/8: Internet Buzz
11/7: Recharged?
11/5: Open Mouth, Insert Foot
11/4: No Wiggle Room
11/1: A Week Lost in Time
Previous months in The Archive

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