With the recent, untimely death of Michael Jackson, a very intriguing dialogue has emerged. While mentioning his passing, anchors on the news stations have included such names as Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra. All icons that deservedly have their place in our cultural lexicon. However, their passing did not face the environment of social media and citizen journalism of which Mr. Jackson’s departure is now the target.
Reports that arrived immediately following the announcement of Jackson’s death flooded the airwaves (that term’s still relevant when referring to TV and the Internet together, right?). It was in fact via Twitter that we here at the LAMP first learned of this occurrence. It didn’t take long before these reports started to dissect this newly deceased man’s life, pulling up stories, images and videos of his various missteps and malfunctions off the stage. Somehow this was appropriate to mourning the loss of one of the biggest impacts in the last quarter century on our global culture – both entertainment-wise as well as with regards to humanitarian efforts. The public debate became one about his legacy – how it should be framed and what should be its content.
What now emerges, just as the wicks in the mourning candles lit last night in remembrance of this man start to cool, is another debate. What damage is news coverage of his passing doing to other important stories? Is his death newsworthy? In the wake of the protests in Iran, does the sidetracking of the focus the Western media had put on the uprisings harm the cause of the protesters (this of course presumes that media coverage in the West has helped the protesters and not hurt them)?
We do not take a particular position on this matter. Frankly, we’re delighted that people are even debating what is newsworthy and what isn’t. It speaks to a much more prevalent media literacy that exists, and it doesn’t escape our notice that the same media folks are choosing to participate in this polemic (social networks, Twitter) are the same ones that informed us of these current events to begin with.