Media fanfare signals end of quality journalism

ABy Adri Mehra am I the only person who can separate Michael Jackson’s face from his music? It seems to me to be a less than intellectually enthralling distinction.

As NBC’s “Dateline” reporter Josh Mankiewicz proclaimed in his story based on British television’s documentary “Michael Jackson’s Face,” “Look at his videos, and you see the recurring theme of metamorphosis.” Within weeks, ABC’s awful show “20/20” (apparently still owning the gumption of calling itself a news program) on Feb. 7 ran British press panderer Martin Bashir’s journalistic joke of an “interview” with Jackson, actually a protracted exercise in the manipulative wonders of post-production.

There is little doubt that Jackson appears to be self-indulgent, perhaps the mark of a person addicted to the trappings of unbridled success. He has sold more records than just about anyone, he has millions of adoring fans in every corner of the world and he lives on a chimerical 2,700-acre ranch-gone-theme park next to Santa Barbara. It is not difficult to believe he would go after altering his appearance in a similar vein of magnitude.

Allegations aside, Michael Jackson is certainly an odd creature with eccentric and often unsettling habits and quirks. Nevertheless, what is too often the victim of media obfuscation is the fact that Jackson is a living legend in the performing arts, and no amount of bloodletting by the vicious daisy chain of paparazzi politic can stop the moonwalk.

I’m not necessarily defending Jackson. As a matter of fact, I think he’s lying about having two operations on his face. An associate in his plastic surgeon’s office puts the mark at closer to 50 procedures. Frankly, I also have doubts that his towheaded, blue-eyed daughter is the product of his relationship with a black woman.

However, there are also some truths I find interesting: Michael Jackson has never been charged with any offense. Prosecutors declined to pursue action against Jackson because they could not find enough evidence of wrongdoing.

Michael Jackson appears to be the victim of what Jeff Koopersmith of the American Politics Journal calls the “American nightmare” – reaching the pinnacle of success only to be gunned down from the envy of it. As a journalism major, I am fascinated by the snide Anglo-American assault on Michael Jackson and the insatiable desire to place his head on a bloodied platter for families to consume on prime-time network television.

There are people as frustrated as I am who will throw logs into

this fire and rant about the reflection of this media train wreck as a litmus indicator of the moral decay of our society. They will say we have forgotten who we are and what we stand for; we have forgotten about the law, or even just getting a fair hearing; we have abandoned decency in favor of quick bloodletting.

I might not stretch that far – after all, this is one case – but perhaps this does herald a new age of gutter-dwelling for U.S. journalism. Perhaps if “Dateline” and “20/20” committed their combined five hours of prime-time programming to covering proven pedophiles, rather than trying to kill the spirit of a dynamic showman who is clearly suffering from paternal abuse, they would serve their role as the United States’ journalists broadcasting for a higher good.

It seems safe to say these might be the U.S. networks’ saddest and sorriest hours. The vacuous moralizing of such pseudo-intellectuals as Bill O’Reilly and his Fox “news” cronies make it seem no surprise that public figures such as former President Clinton and Chief of Staff Vince Foster would be driven to end their lives on a park bench. They are blazing at the bit to salivate over Jackson’s psychological instability and terrible loneliness.

It is all part of a sickeningly well-orchestrated and repellent charade to cash in on the unalterable, unfortunate life circumstances of an aging superstar who was cruelly denied his childhood by his strap-wielding Stalin for a father. It’s nothing less than a high-tech lynching.

Congratulations, America. I’m really encouraged about where we’re headed. I’m sure the media will continue its stellar performance in Baghdad and beyond.

Adri Mehra is a University sophomore studying

journalism. Send letters to the editor to

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