Leading up to this afternoon’s Michael Jackson memorial service, TV was doing its usual job when a mass-culture event such as this occurs: reporting with a mixture of accuracy and inaccuracy, sincerity and cynicism, knowledge and ignorance.
Some moments that caught my eyes and ears:
• NBC’s Brian Williams reporting that Elizabeth Taylor had used Twitter to say she wouldn’t be present for the “public hoopla” surrounding the memorial held at L.A.’s Staples Center. I did not know Liz Taylor Twittered.
• ABC’s Martin Bashir boasting in one breath about his “unprecedented access” to Jackson, and in the next breath, whining about how he was “demonized” for his career-making interview with Jackson, Living With Michael Jackson. I felt a bad taste in my mouth. Click!
• On Fox News, sly Shepard Smith was noting reports of various celebrity attendees being seen in different places at the same time and adding, “Who knows? It’s Michael Jackson’s funeral: People may come with body-doubles.” You gotta like Shep.
• Of course, Fox being Fox, another correspondent could not resist pointing out that the funeral procession to Forest Lawn included “10 Range Rovers sponsored by a local dealership,” thus simultaneously giving a plug for Range Rover and implying there was something craven about the Jackson family using those cars, if indeed any of this was true.
• ABC’s Charlie Gibson was the anchor whose calm demeanor I appreciated most. He didn’t pretend to be a Jackson expert, and his questions were nearly always ones the average viewer would ask, seeking facts about attendance, security, and the mood of the crowd outside the Staples Center.
• On MSNBC, attorney Gloria Allred summed up 10,000 ignorant statements made over the past few days about Jackson’s various controversies with this pearl of non-wisdom: “His fans could see [Jackson] singing and dancing, but of course they could never see what went on behind closed doors.” And neither could you, Gloria, so put a sock in it!