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Should media spend so much time covering trial of Michael Jackson's doctor Conrad Murray?



165115-conrad-murray-trial.jpgI know he's accused of killing the King of Pop.

But should media really be spending this much time on the trial of Michael Jackson's one time doctor, Conrad Murray?

Continuous coverage on HLN and truTV? Secondary story status on ABC 's World News? Highly-touted updates on the network morning newscasts?

"It's all coming out now," enthused NBC News reporter Jeff Rossen on the Today show this morning, sounding a bit too excited for a guy covering a murder trial (Rossen may be best known as the reporter who busted ABC's exclusive with Charlie Sheen, snagging an interview with him before the rival network could get its extensive sit down on air). "All the things he spent his entire life to keep private; how he lived behind closed doors."

0111-murray-jackson-ex.jpgToo much of this coverage feels like grave robbing; an excuse to savor the details of a very private, very eccentric pop star's last days.

Already, we've heard his slurring voice, recorded by Murray as Jackson rambled under the influence of medication. We've heard his personal assistant and bodyguards talk about how the singer's children were curled into a ball on the floor at his death bed.

b4s_etc_jackson07070_75202c.jpgWe've seen defense attorneys claim the star was $400-million in debt, using Demerol to stay awake by day and dangerous sedatives to sleep at night while rehearsing for the world tour which might pay off what he owed.

Even participating on TV's highest rated show couldn't keep tabloid crime queen Nancy Grace from contributing to the smotherage, calling into HLN's programming from rehearsals for Dancing With the Stars, accusing Murray's lawyers of unfairly blaming the victim. And there is the selling-like-hotcakes iTunes Conrad Murray trial app from Los Angeles Fox affiliate KTTV-TV. It offers a live stream of the trial, allowing users to "carry the courtroom with you," according to one Fox executive.

post-sun.jpgIn today's TMZ-fueled media universe, this stuff is to be expected. No matter how morbid it feels, news outlets can't resist the peek at a famous recluse's final moments -- like being able to gather the folks who found Marilyn Monroe or Howard Hughes and forcing them to reveal the scene under pain of perjury.

It's as if the world's gossip mongers briefly put to California judicial system on their payroll, just to get the juicy details on record.

Some of this seems to be about audience. ABC News, which seems to have increasingly focused Diane Sawyer's World News on female-friendly topics, made a Jackson update its second story Wednesday, while Scott Pelley's old school CBS Evening News ignored the story completely.

Frankly, both approaches seem a bit off. Details of the dying moments of the world's biggest pop star certainly have news value.

But the key is to cover the story in proportion, delivering important details without making this look like the trial of the century.

Wonder if there's any news outlet on the planet which can handle that right now?

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[Last modified: Sunday, October 2, 2011 9:25pm]


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