Stephen King weighs in on the Jacko trial -- The author and EW columnist thinks the media should be found guilty of covering Michael Jackson's circus of a trial instead of genuine news

By Stephen King
June 17, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

There was no 700-pound fat lady, no Illustrated Man crawling with tattoos from the crown of his shaved head to the soles of his bare feet, no razor-blade gargler or weirdo geeking the heads off chickens at a special midnight performance, but no mistake about it: The Michael Jackson trial was a freak show. The longest-running opera of oddity ever to be played out before the American people finally ended on June 13, with 10 not-guilty verdicts. The star of our show, the Pale Prince of Peculiarity, then left the courthouse under his black umbrella for the last time.

It’s finally over. Can I be any clearer about my amazed disgust at the amount of ink and TV time this show/trial consumed? At the amount of intellectual house-room it took up? Thank God it’s over, how’s that? On the night of the verdict, the network news programs devoted a hefty percentage of their paltry 30-minute spans first to the verdicts, then to analysis of the verdicts — as though not guilty needs analysis. The cable-news buzzards (Nancy Grace, Larry King, Mercedes Colwin, and Pat Lalama of Celebrity Justice, to name just a few of the plumper ones) were all over it. Not-guilty roadkill isn’t quite as tasty — or as bloody — as guilty roadkill, but it’ll do. It hurts more to see a smart journalist like Jeffrey Toobin keeping his eye on the black umbrella for CNN. Here’s a man in the prime of his creative life and in command of what are clearly prodigious talents, and what he spent over a year doing with them was analyzing the legal struggles of an aging pop star accused of fondling little boys.

This came down to a prosecutor either so sure Jackson was bad or so offended by Jackson’s combination of celebrity and wackiness that he rushed into a case that looked shaky from hello. It looked worse as Santa Barbara County D.A. Tom Sneddon went along, and had become nearly ludicrous by the time Jackson’s ex-wife Debbie Rowe left the stand. No matter how pure Sneddon’s motives may have been (and I’m not saying they were, believe me), he began to look like a man pursuing a vendetta, one whose chief hope of securing a conviction lay in the obvious fact that the trial was a sideshow and the accused was. . .well, a freak.

With the enthusiastic collaboration of the American news media, the sideshow has somehow become the main attraction in American culture: The weirder the guy, the bigger the headlines. It’s sickening that it takes a columnist in an entertainment magazine to point out that the number of newspeople who covered the Jackson trial (2,000) is roughly equivalent to the number of American servicemen and women who have died in Iraq. On the same day that crowds gathered in Times Square (and around the world) to learn the fate of the Pale Peculiarity, another four suicide bombings took place in that tortured, bleeding country. And if you tell me that news doesn’t belong in ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, I respond by saying Michael Jackson under a black umbrella doesn’t belong on the front page of The New York Times.