Michael Jackson and the Media (Hello! What Happened to Iran?)

We are now in the second day of the Michael Jackson story. I was on the phone with a friend when she broke the news to me. She had seen it via her computer, before any of the television outlets had the story. It was a surprise. It was almost bizarre, coming on the same day as the death of Farrah Fawcett. Two pop icons, representing different things to a range of people, dying within a 24-hour period.

I put on MSNBC, and watched as a crowd gathered outside the hospital where Jackson had been taken. At 7 pm, I expected that the usual news line-up would resume, and I would learn about the latest developments in Iran. It wasn’t happening. Keith Olbermann was anchoring the “breaking story.” There were moments of insight, as when he interviewed writer Maureen Orth, who had profiled Jackson for Vanity Fair. Unfortunately, that was interrupted by a cut-away to a (non) press conference at the “scene,” where a police chief informed the waiting reporters he had no comment for the press.

My phone kept ringing with calls asking me if I had heard the news. It felt similar to Elvis, but nothing like the shock of John Lennon’s assassination. I checked Twitter, to see if I were the only person wondering where all the other news stories had gone. The bird was pooped, exhausted from too many Tweets. When I went back later, I was able to get on, and found a few kindred souls lamenting the media situation. One had sent a message out to followers in Iran, asking them to hold on while the United Sates went through the Jackson news cycle.

Everybody has weighed in on Jackson’s death, from Cher on the Larry King show to Christine Hefner and Al Sharpton on MSNBC. This morning, the live coverage of the president’s news conference with German Chancellor Merkel felt like it was squeezed in, between a further dissection of the Jackson persona — ranging from references to him as a Mozartian genius to a suspected pedophile.

There is no doubt that Jackson had a tremendous impact on popular culture, especially in uniting music listeners of all races in a way that we now take for granted. His talent is undisputed.

However, the watershed image of loss for me of the past week was not the “King of Pop,” with his unique musical skills, wonderful dancing, and gloved hand. It was the picture of Neda Agha Soltan looking squarely into the camera, for what may have been a passport photo.*

*The photo that had been circulated of Neda Agha Soltan has been deleted from this post.

It has proven to be erroneous, and in accordance with other posts, I wish to protect the safety of the “woman in a headscarf” that has been seen around the world. The content of my comments remain the same. I used that picture, rather than the one of Neda shot and bleeding. I support the people of Iran and the women who have played such an active role in fighting for freedom and self-determination.

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