Posts Tagged ‘TMZ’

Media Lessons From Michael to Elvis: King to King

Posted in Media Coverage on June 27th, 2009 by admin – 2 Comments

One of my Facebook friends sent me this message, “baby, it’s just like Aug. 16, 1977 when Elvis died…” 

I pondered the thought. I had heard it mentioned in passing through the traditional media.  I was shocked and abhorred when several hours after Michael Jackson’s death, a man who the media labeled as the Jackson Family attorney, Brian Oxman was on CNN and said that Michael’s death would basically pale in comparison to the death of Anna Nicole Smith.

Now, I’m sitting there still in complete shock that MJ is dead and this man is telling all the intimate details about a so-called friend.  I don’t know what is true or what isn’t true and yes, transparency is important but my goodness, timing is too.  There was no reason to disparage the man without any tangible proof nor autopsy results. With that said, thanks to my FB friend, I took the time to explore the death of Elvis and found a story by Entertainment Weekly at  If indeed prescription drugs were involved, this will be beyond eerily similar, it will be history repeating itself.

Here’s the interview Brian Oxman gave as a follow up to his initial one on CNN during the height of the situation. It’s on You Tube with  MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann.  Mind you, CNN broke that part of the story. I googled it and this is the video that showed up in the search results.  Watch the video and then come back and read the rest of this post with lessons for traditional media.

Lesson One: Make sure that if you get information that no one else has that you make it available immediately on multiple platforms.  If I was CNN, I would have pulled that very piece of tape, transcribed it, uploaded it to You Tube, commented on it, put it on Facebook, linked to it through Twitter, made copies of it available on every media outlet known to man complete with the CNN logo. MSNBC now is reaping the benefits from CNN’s capital.

Lesson Two: Sourcing is a HUGE issue for all media. The traditional media were hesitant to quote when MJ passed away.  However, they have been extremely quick to put any and everybody on television who may have just laid eyes on Michael Jackson.   No one knows who his FRIENDS really are.  There is so much “VICKING” going on it’s unbelievable. If something happens to me, “DON”T VICK ME.”  Don’t tell on all of my business unless you have concrete proof about that which you speak.  The traditional media need to be held accountable for all of these people who are claiming to know Michael.

Lesson Three: Don’t engage in media overkill. Yes, this was and is a story of GREAT magnitude but to repeat the same stories over and over again turns viewers off. When I asked my FB friends to respond to this question:

Hey, what do you guys think of the MJ coverage on traditional media? Too much, too little, too critical, too easy. I need your response ASAP!! Are you getting more news from traditional media or from your friends. Finally, how’d you learn about the death of MJ. THANKS!

Here are some of the responses:

Sherlyn said:

Too much coverage based on speculation. He just died and many went straight for the jugular vein. You can tell a slow news day when all they do is focus on any and all aspects of who he was especially his finances. I happened to hear about his death on a radio station that I normally don’t listen to. I spread the word via phone to my family. We pretty much haven’t discussed it beyond that. One friend here on facebook and I had a brief discussion about what songs we liked.

Chris said:

Stories that impact the world like Iran and N. Korea are getting mere mentions once an hour on CNN and MSNBC. MJ is THE story. Problem is, everything we’re hearing, we’ve already heard a zillion times. It’s all speculation and repeating and it’s WAAAY past time to move on.

Nelson said:

The 1,000+ page Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill is working its way through the legislative branch and is at a critical juncture today. It’s my understanding that this legislation makes a huge impact on our environmental policy, tax structure, and economy. When I turned on the news this morning to get up to date on the analysis and debate, what do I get? Michael Jackson. Ridiculous. A minute or two would have been just about right.

Oh yeah — I heard about first when my sister saw it on TMZ and posted it to face book. Adam Dread followed her minutes later with a comment about MJ and Farah. As for “to critical, too easy”, everything I’ve seen has been either tribute or speculation but appropriately sad.

Colleen said:

heard he was in hospital from msnbc homepage. heard he was dead from bbc nightly news. after watching last night and and for about 10 minutes this am, I’m all done w/ the cable news outlets, the entertainment shows and the local stations – by the time I woke this morning, I had had enough. Now, I’m hearing about it on FB and whenever I go anywhere. but I’m done w/ the media on this story.

Stephanie said:

the media always loves scandal. The only media outlets that have been empathetic were mtv and bet surprisingly. I found out by doing my daily check of tmz on my cell phone. Then i texted everyone i knew.

Virginia said:

I think there has already been too much about it and now again tonight there is more. When will it end?

Lesson Four: If a major story breaks with any possible historical connections, find all of the stories your organization has done and post them to the web.  New media websites only have access to information in the public domain. You still have priceless capital use it and let it go. I know that’s terrifying but the users will keep your stories and brands alive.

Right now, if you are a news outlet and you don’t have information about the death of Elvis Presley on your website, you are missing a HUGE audience. Those who are really interested and tired of the on-going coverage on television are searching the web for other information.  I know you’re not brave enough to break from the pack and be innovative or creative.  You want to keep repeating the same information.  At least give people something online.   Remember, the bloggers, strangers, private citizens and anybody else with Internet access and who cares about this particular story is looking for not just NEW information but substantive information.

Lesson Five: Don’t squander the power that you still have.  Attention CNN: millions of people were depending on you to verify what TMZ had already confirmed.  In this David and Goliath battle, David (TMZ) won.  Michael Jackson wasn’t dead until CNN said so and that was at least TWO HOURS after TMZ.  You cannot afford to use up so much time in the future. Now, the audience is starting to realize that TMZ is credible. Now, some will go to them instead of you. However, YOU had one of the largest audience’s this year.  Take your authority seriously and LEAD!!! Stop following mediocrity.  You have to confirm stories more quickly and then add value, give the audience something unexpected.  You get the point.

Lesson Six: Partner with social media outlets.  This is no longer about competition.  America is going to kill itself before any other enemy comes close. Stop trying to force control, competition and conformity. This is the age of change, colloboration and community. Get with the program. If you share, you will greatly benefit.  You should have called TMZ and gave them your platform to report the story. If you had worked together, the audience would have gained respect for both organizations instead of questioning yours.

Lesson Seven: Stop dismissing people with sound advice. I have read no less than 30 books on change, innovation, new media, social media etc in the last two years and I’m writing several books on my thoughts. What is clear is that those companies, institutions, media and/or individuals who perceive that they still have absolute power readily dismiss people with different ideas. You are killing innovators and entrepreneurs daily.  You are literally cutting your nose to spite your face.  Be inclusive NOT exclusive.  The audience has and will go elsewhere.

Let’s be clear, the traditional media is still relevant and valuable.  Things have just changed dramatically. The role of traditional media is to put accurate information into the pipeline as quickly as possible in every format possible.  It is a monumental task.  However, with practice, patience, partnerships and an open mind as well as story coverage model, they can still reap the benefits of their labor.  Leverage ALL that you have your brand, social media, traditional media and whatever else comes.

That’s enough for now.


Michael Jackson

Posted in Uncategorized on June 26th, 2009 by admin – 2 Comments

It was a little after 4pm CST on Thursday, June 25. I was editing a manuscript and decided to take a break and check out my friends on Facebook.  As I scanned the news feed, I read this post “my goodness, what a day. Now, it’s Michael Jackson….prayers for sure!”  The post was a bit confusing. Of course, I knew about the death of actress Farrah Fawcett.  She was an “angel” in American history.  I reminisced about playing Sabrina (Kate Jackson’s character).  And the passing of Ed McMahon was fresh too. So the FB post was unsettling. Shortly thereafter, I sent a friend who was at the MJ rehearsal site in LA a text to find out what was going on. At that point, “he” didn’t have any information.  He asked me to keep him posted via text.  Then, I went back to FB and found the link to TMZ.

As a journalist, I looked for the source for the story.  Initially, TMZ did NOT attribute the story. They mentioned “a source” WITHOUT naming someone.  However, I knew that TMZ would NOT have posted the story without confirmation. It was just too big.  The website is run by journalists who worked for mainstream media and is owned by Time Warner. They had too much at stake to risk any credibility. Traditional media question TMZ until TMZ is useful to the traditional media. Ironically, it is becoming more and more common for mainstream media to interview TMZ staff on big entertainment stories.

As for the speed of information dissemination, with Twitter, Facebook, text, email and let us not forget the cell phone, news organizations have nano seconds to confirm stories. I was watching CNN for further confirmation. I was hoping that TMZ was wrong but I knew that they weren’t, they couldn’t be, it would have been website suicide.  Soon after, TMZ’s report, CNN  put this on the screen: LA Times reports Michael Jackson Dies.   That still meant that they had NOT confirmed the story. CNN did not confirm the story until 6:25pm CST.

The credibility of online news sources has been catapulted into the spotlight once again and this time TMZ is standing on solid ground. However, one wonders how long it will take for the masses to genuinely trust sites other than CNN, FOX, MSNBC, ABC, NBC and CBS.  This is the digital age.  Information is going to be sent whether the audience or the mainstream media are ready or not.  It’s a new day.  In addition to the media, private citizens, were using every resource they had to confirm the story.  The mainstream media must lose the notion of competition because now they are competing, potentially against millions of people. The role of the mainstream media needs to be putting stories into context, organizing and indexing them.

Focusing on “breaking” news is an effort in futility. Claiming that stories are exclusive is also counterproductive unless you can scour the millions of websites and confirm that the story is indeed only yours.  And when does breaking news stop, when one news agency breaks the story. And does that agency have to be one of the “big” ones. Why expend your energy and resources to be first. Focus on being the best, the most thorough, the most educational and the most engaging.

This is a moment in World history for many, many reasons.  Michael Jackson was my generations, big brother. Yes, he was quirky, questionable and quacky.  We accepted him for who he was.  We wore the one glove. I had a jheri curl with one strand on my forehead.  We did the moonwalk and rocked with Michael all the way.

He was raised during a time when his race was not appreciated. He was compared to Donny Osmond and told repeatedly by his father (as portrayed in The Jacksons: An American Dream) that he had to be better than him. Michael was surrounded by a culture that did not initially embrace him.  Think about it, it was 1983 when MTV finally added Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean video to the on air rotation.  As one who has studied Black Identity Development, I wrote an article years ago and sent it to an editor of a popular magazine (it was not published, if I can find it, I’ll post it) talking about how when a person is forced to accept an identity that he/she did not choose, they can experience an identity crisis. If you can’t be who you want to be, be accepted (Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, sense of belonging) and be secure in yourself, you cannot be sound mentally.  There’s so much more to be said and explored but I’ll leave that for another day.

For now, rest in peace, Michael, your music was and is phenomenal.  Your songs are my life’s timelilne. I was a teenager when the album Off the Wall was released.  This is so surreal and so sad. I just don’t remember so many losses as a child.  With all of the media, everything is so public and in a strange way so much more personal.  It doesn’t directly affect my day to day activities. I’m perfectly fine yet somehow affected by this existential change.  In such a short time, Bernie Mac, James Brown, Gerald Levert, Isaac Hayes.…gone.  Like Jill Scott, I’m Livin’ My Life like its Golden.