Those are the words that came into my ear around 5:44pm Thursday as our 5pm producer, Thomas West, told me that Michael Jackson had died. We had been following the news for almost a half hour and I had no BlackBerry, laptop or computer on the desk with me. Wendy Bell and I were depending on the word from our producer booth.
“He’s dead, Credit the website”.
The website in question was TMZ, the celebrity gossip site, which many in the traditional media tend to frown upon. However, to this station’s credit, we used it as a credible source based on its history and track record … and we continued to source them during our coverage. That’s why our viewers heard about his passing before those watching CNN, Fox News, etc.
That being said, it was one of those moments that completely shocked me … and I am never shocked by anything anymore. I guess I have become a cynical news reporter, never being blown away by anything I hear. I guess I have heard of the worst things people have done onto others, so its hard to be surprised by anything I hear anymore.
The death of Michael Jackson shocked me.
Now I will admit, while I did love his music I thought he was a little bit of a freak show. Skin disease aside, his desire to change his appearance to look more like Diana Ross was kind of strange. Also, let’s not forget the whole child molestation case as well as his dangling of his young baby out a hotel window. Plus, the man was no money manager. Reportedly, he was deep in debt.
All that being said, his music is part of my life and my generation. His songs as a member of the Jackson Five take me back to my youth. His “Thriller” album hit the store shelves while I was in high school. I was one of those kids who rushed home in anticipation of seeing the “Thriller” video. While I never bought one of his albums, I always seem to pause and listen to his sonsg when they pop up on the radio.
And I was always remember Michael Jackson’s passing. I have to. It’s the same date as my wedding anniversary. Now, I have joined the likes of friends who have birthdays or anniversaries on holidays or significant dates in history. Now, those special dates have been completely overshadowed by events in pop culture.
I will finally say this. It was strange to say “Michael Jackson has died” on the air last night. We all know that in television news, we are often reporting information to people for the very first time. It’s weird to know I may have told thousands of viewers about the passing of Michael Jackson. I’m sure they had the same reaction Wendy and myself did when we heard it from our producer.
We didn’t believe it, either.