Leave it to Michael Jackson. On the same day that cultural icon Farrah Fawcett passed away, only someone with the stature of the King of Pop could steal the headlines. Just when it seemed as though Farrah was about to get her last few moments of fame, MJ dies in sudden and mysterious fashion.
In the newsroom, the sequence of events on Thursday afternoon went something like this: Around 4:15 or so, one of the producers announced that Jackson had been rushed to a hospital in Los Angeles. From my post on the assignment desk, I began monitoring the Web site TMZ.com, which, initially, seemed to be the only outlet reporting anything. Shortly, ABC's live channel began showing aerials of activity outside the hospital where Jackson had been taken. TMZ continued to update its story, quoting Jackson's family and friends saying that "things did not look good."
As we continued to monitor TMZ, CNN and other Web sites for updates, the Associated Press remained oddly - for lack of a better word - unupdated. The AP, which will put out a news alert when some bill makes it out of committee or when some government from a country you never heard of gets overthrown, was reporting nothing. Nothing. It didn't even put out an alert which cited information from other media outlets. With nothing else to go on, we aired a story on our 5pm newscast citing the report from TMZ.
Anyway, one of the anchors then moseyed up to the assignment desk and we began chatting about our memories of Michael, the lack of updates, etc. Then, it happened. I don't recall the exact time, but maybe around 5:30 or so, I refreshed the TMZ page and saw the headline: Michael Jackson Dies.
It was the gasp heard round the newsroom.
The anchor and I both inhaled rather loudly as we read the headline. According to TMZ, the man who brought us "Thriller" and so many other pop classics was gone. With no warning. Just like that.
We now began looking for confirmation. Some other entertainment Web sites reported the death a short time later. But, an LA newspaper Web site reported that he was in a coma. CNN still said only that he had been rushed to the hospital. The Associated Press still had nothing. By the time it actually sent out a news alert reporting that Jackson had been rushed to the hospital, there was already no doubt that Jackson was dead.
So, the King of Pop remained weird til the end, dying under weird circumstances, and surrounded by weird happenings (at least in the media). Specifically, why was the AP so late reporting anything? Why did it take outlets other than TMZ so long to confirm the death? Where did that story about the coma come from?
Weird. Kind of like the time Jackson showed up to his child molestation trial on a stretcher and wearing pajamas. Long after his glory days as the King of Pop.