Forget The Facts-We Want The Story! -Howard Rosenberg 1993

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How media put Michael Jackson on trial in 1993

Let’s harken back to the day when media began to implode –

Forget the Facts–We Want the Story! : Media: Allegations surrounding Michael Jackson set off a whirlwind of tabloidesque reports from dubious and so-called legitimate news sources alike.

August 27, 1993|

HOWARD ROSENBERG

The facts we are about to bring you may be unfounded rumors. But . . . what the hell.

If there ever was much of a line separating many so-called legitimate news organizations from the yellowest of tabloids in the 1990s, the Michael Jackson Media Caper is the howitzer that’s blasting it into oblivion. All across the globe, Inquiring Minds are having a heyday.

The defining volley arguably came Wednesday when “CBS News This Morning” anchor Paula Zahn was called upon to seek the real scoop about the ALLEGED scandal from Diane Dimond, star reporter of dubious distinction for the syndicated “Hard Copy.” That’s right, the CBS News source list is now headed by one of the most aggressively shoddy and dishonest programs on the air.

Zahn to Dimond: “Was there any suggestion that other children were involved?” And later: “We heard some stories that some photos were involved, too. Have you heard anything about that?” Dimond said she “was workin’ on that angle,” but it appeared that Zahn and CBS News executives would have to be patient and watch “Hard Copy” themselves to find out just what she had up her sleeve.

Rehashing the granite-inscribed allegations about Jackson and a 13-year-old youth would serve no good purpose here, but suffice to say that CBS News gave Dimond the V.I.P. treatment, in effect legitimizing “Hard Copy” while undermining its own credibility.

Other mainstream newscasts have routinely slipped tabloid front pages and headlines–most memorably the New York Post’s “Peter Pan or Pervert?” banner–into their Jackson coverage. Another favorite has been that notorious London rag, the Sun, whose cover photo of Jackson and The Boy (whose face was partially blocked out by Los Angeles stations) has been widely featured. A columnist from the Sun has been interviewed concerning the paper’s decision to print The Boy’s name–as if it had any ethics to breach in the first place–and KCAL-TV Channel 9 quoted the tabloid in detail concerning a sealed police report.

“Inside Edition,” which self-righteously shuns the tabloid label itself, interviewed a London Daily Mirror columnist and got some other crucial information about Jackson’s activities from a “Michael Jackson follower.” The show’s policy is to “protect the identity of alleged child abuse victims,” said anchor Bill O’Reilly shortly after “Inside Edition” showed footage of Jackson and The Boy, whose face was identifiable despite being electronically marbleized. KNBC-TV Channel 4’s own marbleization of the face was equally ineffective.

And of course “Hard Copy,” which also got quoted on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” weighed in with Dimond’s “very detailed account” in addition to choice Jackson anecdotes regarding kids from an anonymous “limo driver.”

It was “CBS This Morning” again, this time on Thursday, which demonstrated just how a story like this balloons into an 800-pound gorilla, taking on a menacing life of its own far beyond any identifiable factual base. At one point Zahn asked a CBS News reporter, Rick Frederickson in Bangkok, Thailand (where Jackson’s reported illness caused temporary suspension of his worldwide “Dangerous” tour), about “reports yesterday of a suicide attempt.”

What reports? From tabloids? Whatever these “reports” or whether they had substance–Frederickson could not validate them–they now flew across the airwaves, settling into the public consciousness along with other “facts” in the case. Thus, others in the mainstream media may now feel compelled to follow up these “reports” and, warranted or not, further extend their life.

Next on the Jackson interview list was pop psychologist Joyce Brothers, seen earlier this week introducing stand-up comics on the Arts & Entertainment network’s “An Evening at the Improv.” Among other things, Zahn wanted to know from Brothers how parents could prepare their children “if it is determined that these allegations are indeed true.” Thus the big jump, from scattershot reporting of unproved allegations to a speculative question that appeared to reinforce these allegations.

Channel 4 has been in the forefront of straight investigative reporting of the Jackson story, and KTLA-TV Channel 5 has been the most cautious. Even tabloid programs have couched their reporting on Jackson in disclaimers, noting that nothing so far has been proved. Yet these are straws in a gale wind of scarring publicity that all the prime-time Oprah Winfrey interviews in the world will never be able to erase.

And if further evidence was needed that the unproved charge had become the fact–and that Jackson had been unfairly put in the position of having to disprove guilt–it came on Channel 9, which quoted someone as saying about The Boy that recently his “mood changed (and) he became more withdrawn, which parents say can be a sign of trauma.” Viewers could draw their own conclusions.

Meanwhile, it seemed inevitable that The Boy would be sacrificed on the altar of The People’s Right To Know.

As this story continues hurtling out of control, it becomes increasingly harder for even scrupulous, well-intentioned media to respond to it without revealing the identity of The Boy, at least indirectly. Identify the divorced parents, you identify him.

Doing stand-ups outside the father’s home (a la Channel 9 and KABC-TV Channel 7) didn’t help. Nor did showing the father drive away in his car and identifying him as a “prominent Westside dentist” (Channel 4). Nor did identifying him as “dentist to the stars” (Channel 9). Nor did naming The Boy and his father as originating the idea behind the movie, “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” (Channels 7 and 9). Nor, most certainly, did naming the parents and assigning a reporter, with a camera rolling, to invade the workplaces of both parents (KCOP-TV Channel 13).

Along with Jackson’s reputation, anonymity has been a major casualty here. On Wednesday, KCBS-TV Channel 2 headlined the name of a prominent child actor who also was reportedly “interviewed” in connection with this case. And Channel 2 reporter Harvey Levin elaborated Thursday on “CBS News This Morning,” adding that the actor “denies” that Jackson did anything improper in the youngster’s presence. By using “denies,” Levin gave the impression that a charge of wrongdoing had been made.

True or untrue? It didn’t make any difference, for the image of Jackson and the youngster together was already fixed in your mind.

Source:

http://articles.latimes.com/1993-08-27/entertainment/ca-28605_1_michael-jackson

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“Are You Listening?”

Are You Listening?

Nonlocal Universe

Who am I?300px-Jackson_Michael.svg_3Who are you?

Where did we come from?

Where are we going?

What’s it all about?

Do you have the answers?

Immortality’s my game

From Bliss I came

In Bliss I am sustained

To Bliss I return

If you don’t know it now

It’s a shame

Are you listening?

This body of mine

Is a flux of energy

In the river of time

Eons pass, ages come and go

300px-Jackson_Michael.svg_3I appear and disappear

Playing hide-and-seek

In the twinkling of an eye

I am the particle

I am the wave

Whirling at lightning speed

I am the fluctuation

That takes the lead

I am the Prince

I am the Knave

I am the doing

That is the deed

I am the galaxy, the void of space

In the Milky Way

I am the craze

I am the thinker, the thinking, the thought

I am the seeker, the seeking…

View original post 165 more words

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Tabloid junkies unite: we’re having a Michael Jackson field day

From Anne Marie Latour –  A response to Media running with Tabloid Radar Online fabricated story regarding Michael Jackson-

It’s that time of year again, when the days leading up to June 25 – the date of Michael Jackson’s anniversary – provide an excellent opportunity to drag up sordid stories about the King of Pop. Wha…

Source: Tabloid junkies unite: we’re having a Michael Jackson field day

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Daniel Ross discusses Michael Jackson Epic “Key Change”

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By Daniel Ross, 17th June 2016, 15:16

Michael Jackson’s ‘Man In The Mirror’ features one of the most satisfyingly epic key changes in all music. This is why it’s so good.

Michael Jackson key change-
So we’re looking specifically at this moment here:

This one:

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Let’s just celebrate for a moment the audacity of this key change. For a start, it occurs on the word ‘Change’. Not only that, it occurs on the word ‘Change’ during a song ACTUALLY ABOUT change. Key change, changing person, on the word ‘Change’. It’s change central.

‘Man In The Mirror’ begins in humble, plain, unassuming G major. The harmony is sweet, fairly unadventurous, but functional. Jackson, a keen improviser (‘HEE-EE!’), clearly enjoys rattling around G major and exploiting that killer 7th degree of the scale for maximum impact. Fine. We expect this.

But then, at about 2:50, it happens. Change happens. In a stroke of genius, the key change itself is pre-figured with a moment’s silence, which completely removes the rug from under the listener’s ears (if that’s physically possible), and establishes a new reality of A flat major (or G sharp major, which looks more impressive) without so much as a cursory consultation period.

READ FULL ARTICLE 

Source: Full article – http://www.classicfm.com/discover/music-theory/man-mirror-michael-jackson-key-change/#8JIB50smhkouxqEV.97

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Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, Michael Jackson- 3 Black Men that Changed the World

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Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, Michael Jackson: Three black men that changed the world
— 13th June 2016

By Tope Adeboboye

THE world stood still on Saturday, June 3, as news reverberated across the globe that Muhammad Ali, one of the greatest sporting heroes whose feet ever trod the earth, had passed on.

It was the end of an era for a black man revered as the greatest boxer of all times.

As the death knell tolled for Ali, and people of all races paid their respects to the deceased, many agreed that it was the end of a great epoch. “Never again will the world have such a man as Muham­mad Ali,” a 64-year-old Japanese woman wailed while mourning the late icon.

Ali’s death drew the curtains on a long span, when a triumvirate of three black men dominated the world and changed the course of history like never before with their talents, skills and character. They were the three Ms – Mandela, Mu­hammad and Michael.

While Ali dazed and dazzled the world with his exploits in the ring, Michael Jackson bewildered and bamboozled humanity with his in­credible music and stage presence. And in the minds of hundreds of millions of people the world over, Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa, would remain one of the greatest human leaders that ever lived.

Muhammad Ali

At his birth on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky, his par­ents, Cassius and Odessa Clay named their first child Cassius Marcellus Clay. But as he grew old­er, rebellion welled up in his mind. He loathed his name, which he saw as the relics of the slave era. He was christened after a 19th centu­ry white plantation owner who be­came an abolitionist and freed his slaves. But to Clay Jnr, that wasn’t something to be proud of. He even­tually became a Muslim and gave himself another name – Muham­mad Ali.

But right from the onset, the young Cassius Clay had long told the world that he was going to change the course of history. Growing up in Kentucky where racism was a way of life, he refused to be defeated by the circumstanc­es of his birth as a member of an endangered species. He craved greatness and found boxing as a ve­hicle that would ferry him to that desired destination. He told him­self he was the best. When he won his first bout as a young teenager, he told his family to be on the look­out, confidently intoning that he would be boxing champion. And he worked extra hard to achieve his dreams. He was a man that invented his own mythology and connected it to bigger matters.

A biographer wrote that the young Clay took the fear instilled by the history of his people in America and transmuted it into something that fear itself was afraid of.

Since he already knew where he was headed, Cassius spent more of his time in the gym. By the time he was 18, he had fought 108 bouts, winning 100. He had also garnered two national Golden Gloves cham­pionships. In 1960, he boxed for the U.S. Olympics team in Rome and came back home with a gold medal. He later said in The Great­est, the 1977 film about himself that was directed by Tom Gries and Monte Hellman, that he threw the award into the Ohio River after re­alizing that some restaurants still refused him service in Louisville because he was black. He said: “On my side of the veil, everything was black. I knew that there were two Louisvilles and two Americas.”

Ali had once bragged: “By the end of 1963, I will be the youngest champion in history.” In 1964, Ali, still Cassius Clay, became world heavyweight champion after beat­ing Sonny Liston. He was just 22.

With the fame and influence brought upon him by his new sta­tus, the champ turned that promi­nence into a political capital by aligning himself with the most feared Black Nationalist move­ment of the time. Then he resist­ed service in the Vietnam War. Why would he do that? “I had to prove you could be a new kind of black man,” he told an author, Da­vid Remnick years later. “I had to show that to the world.”

But America and the boxing au­thorities were not ready for all that. In 1967, Ali was stripped of all claims to his title. The US govern­ment also tried to send him to jail.

As a boxer, Ali did things the way no other boxer ever did. He showed little respect to his opponents and taunted them. That worked for him. The world saw a different boxer altogether. Soon, he be­gan predicting at what rounds he would give his opponent a techni­cal knock-out. And the world was awed by how he was changing the norms and redefining boxing.

But besides fighting for fame and for­tune, Ali was also fighting for a cause – to show the world that a black man could be the greatest.

Former heavyweight champion George Foreman, said of Ali: “He found some­thing to fight for, other than money and championship belts. And when a person finds something like that, you can hardly beat them.”

When he was to fight Sonny Liston, the world heavyweight champion in 1964, not too many people believed in Ali. But by then, he had met Malcolm X, and he had converted to Islam, though his name was still Cassius Clay. He was also close to Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the The Nation of Islam. After knocking out the champion, Ali addressed the shocked, mostly white reporters who never gave him a chance: “Eat your words,” he told them. “I told you and you and you! I’m king of the world! You must all bow to me! I shook up the world! I am the pretti­est thing that ever lived.”

Shortly after the fight, the new cham­pion declared that he was no longer Cas­sius Clay but Cassius X. Elijah Muham­mad soon after changed the champion’s name to Muhammad Ali.

During the Vietnam War, Ali refused to be drafted to the military. He told a re­porter: “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong. They ain’t never called me nigger.”

For three years, Ali was banished from boxing. In 1968, he served a 10-day term in the Miami Dade County Jail, for driv­ing without a valid licence. In prison, he served food to death row inmates. In 1970, the Supreme Court ruled that Ali could fight again.

He returned to the ring against Joe Frazier, Ali was defeated. He had earlier been knocked to the ground decisively by Frazier in the course of the fight. “But by rebounding in that same instant, Ali re­deemed his meaning as a hero: He was the black man who would not stay down, no matter what,” a reporter wrote.

Ali got his world title back in 1974 when he defeated George Foreman in the fight called Rumble in the Jungle in Zaire, now Congo.

Years later, Foreman said of the fight. “Probably the best punch of the night was never landed. Muhammad Ali, as I was going down, stumbling, trying to hold myself, he saw me stumbling. Ordinarily you finish a fighter off; I would have. He got ready to throw the right hand, and he didn’t do it. That’s what made him, in my mind, the greatest fighter I ever fought.”

Ali had more fights after that, before re­tiring in 1981. Since then till he breathed his last, Ali was punished by Parkinson’s disease. But he also lived through it for many years. He would forever remain the authentic black hero, the greatest boxer that ever lived.

Nelson Mandela

Many across the world regard the late anti-apartheid hero and former South Af­rican President, Nelson Rolhilahla Man­dela, as the greatest black man of all times. And they have a point. How many people in the world would elect to be shackled in dingy cells on isolated prison facilities for 27 years rather than abandon the struggle to emancipate his people?

After his release from the in­famous jailhouse, Victor Verster Prison where he had spent the last months of his many years in pris­on on February 11, 1990, Mandela totally divested his mind and con­sciousness of all hate and malice, pronouncing forgiveness for his traducers. He became a father fig­ure to all South Africans, whether black, white and coloured. Even after his death, everyone in the world celebrates the iconic world figure who became the symbol of doggedness and determination. Because of Mandela, many now believe that impossibility is noth­ing.

The Xhosa born to the Them­bu Royal Family on July 18, 1918 trained as a lawyer. In Johannes­burg where he lived, he became in­volved in anti-colonial politics and struggles. He joined the African National Congress (ANC) and was a founding member of its Youth League.

Although he initially preached and was committed to non-violent protests, he became a co-founder of the militant Umkhonto we Siz­we in 1961. The group led a sabo­tage campaign against the govern­ment. In 1962, he was arrested, convicted of conspiracy to over­throw the state and sentenced to life imprisonment.

After his release from jail, Man­dela became a global hero. The world stood still as he walked out of jail, as tears cascaded down the faces of millions of men and wom­en across the globe. He was the symbol of freedom and hope.

After his release, it became in­disputable that he would soon be­come the country’s president. The world wanted him as president, and South Africans also needed a figure like him. He achieved that seemingly impossible feat in 1994. A decade earlier, even the most incurable optimist would have laughed off the suggestion.

Many had feared that Mandela’s time as South African president would bring vengeance, and might lead to civil war. But he set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commis­sion, preaching peace, reconcili­ation and forgiveness. He worked hard to make all South Africans see themselves as one, in spite of colour and race.

Even before his death in 2013 at 95, the entire world had ac­cepted him as one of the greatest men that ever lived. He was a man that inspired hope and possibility throughout the world.

At his passing, the great Rev Jes­se Jackson wrote: “Mandela was a transformational figure. To say he was a “historical figure” would not give him his full due. Some people move through history as being the “first this or that” – just another figure in a lineage of persons. To be a transformer is to plan, to have the vision to chart the course, the skills to execute. To be transfor­mational is to have the courage of one’s convictions, to sacrifice, to risk life and limb, to lay it all on the line. “Historical figures” will reference Nelson Mandela.”

Michael Jackson

At a point, Michael Jackson was the most popular person in the world. Generally accepted as the undisputable King of Pop, Jackson was born in the United States in 1958, the eighth of ten children in a working class African-American family that lived in a crowded two-bedroom house on Jackson Street in Gary, Indiana.

In 1964, Jackson’s life as an ar­tiste evolved when he and his brother Marlon joined the Jackson Brothers, a band formed by their father, Joe. In 1972, Michael start­ed his solo career.

Over the years, Michael Jackson mesmerised the world with his in­credible talents as a singer, song writer, dancer and entertainer. His album, ‘Off the Wall,” which had songs like “Off the Wall,” “She’s Out of My Life”, and the chart-top­ping singles “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” and “Rock with You” reached number three on the Bill­board 200 and eventually sold over 20 million copies worldwide. He also started acting in films.

His songs, “Thriller” and “Bad” became global anthems. Millions of youths all over the world spent hours rehearsing his moves and moonwalk. He reshaped the pop culture in ways that are hardly fathomable. In all parts of the world, there is hardly a musician after Michael Jackson that wasn’t influenced by the iconic musician.

In spite of his troubles and con­troversies, Michael Jackson has re­mained an enduring phenomenon even after his death on June 25, 2009 of cardiac arrest induced by propofol and benzodiazepine in­toxication.

Michael Jackson was one of the very few artists to have been in­ducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice. He was also the first and only dancer from pop and rock music inducted into the Songwrit­ers Hall of Fame and the Dance Hall of Fame. Jackson got multiple Guinness World Records. He had 13 Grammy Awards, the Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Michael Jackson, also called the Wacko Jacko had 26 American Mu­sic Awards more than any other artist. He was named “Artist of the Century” and “Artist of the 1980s.” During his career, he had 13 number-one singles in the Unit­ed States.

Michael Jackson will forever remain in the chronicles as the greatest artistes of all times. Like Muhammad Ali and Nelson Man­dela, Michael Jackson remains one of the greatest men the world will ever know

Source: http://sunnewsonline.com/author/uche/

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The Other Side of Michael Jackson -by Noppie

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Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 7.37.55 AMOriginal post by Noppie

In October 1994 I organised a special tour to Memphis for Dutch Elvis Fans to attend the Elvis Aaron Tribute Concert in the Pyramid. We were aware of the fact that Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley would be present.

Through my contacts at Graceland, I informed if there would be a possibility to meet the couple. But, they told me that that would be impossible. No person could meet the famous couple. We met in Memphis all kind of other famous artists and stars. On October 8th, we attended the concert in the Pyramid and, indeed, Michael Jackson & Lisa Marie Presley were introduced by John Stamos to the audience. They were there with Priscilla Presley and Janet Jackson. The audience went mad and this was a special moment. This tribute concert was one of a kind and very special. We met in our hotel, the former Ramada Inn down at Union Avenue, a mother who was there with two children. One of the children was suffering cancer and the child would be treated at the St. Judes Hospital in Memphis. It was very hard to see that young girl, knowing that her life would end soon.

Later, during our stay in Memphis, we visited a record-store in Memphis. Suddenly we were surprised and astonished. Who walked in that store? Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley with a couple of body-guards! Of course my group went crazy, but I told them to keep quiet. I walked to one of the bodyguards and told him that I was a travel-agent and had 14 Dutch Elvis Fans with me and asked if it would be possible to take a picture from Michael and Lisa Marie. The body-guard went to Michael. Talked with him shortly, returned to me and asked; “where you from?” I responded “Holland, the Netherlands”. Again, the bodyguard went to Michael and spoke shortly with him, returned to me and said; “No problem to take a picture, but let them first alone and do their shopping.”

After a while, the bodyguard came up to me and told me that we could take some pictures. We took our cameras and position to take some pictures. Michael and Lisa Marie stood posing for us. Suddenly, the bodyguard came up to me and said; “What are you doing?” I was surprised and answered; “You told us, it was alright to take some pictures?”. The man answered; “Yes, but you can also say hello and talk with them.” So, the strange thing happened. We met Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley. We talked with them for more than 20 minutes, could take pictures and let them sign cd’s. I spoke with Michael and I told him that I attended two of his concerts in ‘De Kuip’ in Rotterdam in 1988. He answered; “Oh, yes Amsterdam”. But later he himself corrected it in said; “No, no it was Rotterdam.” Also he was amazed that I knew that his tricks came from Siegfried and Roy. It was all amazing. He was shy, but relaxed. We could take pictures and also to the other people from my group, he was friendly.

With Lisa Marie I spoke about the fact that I organised tours fro Dutch Elvis fans to Memphis and that I met her mother, Priscilla, a couple of times and the first one, was in Amsterdam. Other people were not allowed to come nearby and were surprised why we could talk with Michael and Lisa Marie. After more than 20 minutes we said goodbye and the couple left the store and left us behind. We went immediately to a photo shop and let our special photos printed. This was amazing. In Holland the news spread and we reached the media. The next day, I went by at Graceland. Bridget, receptionist at the office at that time, welcomed me and I showed her the pictures. She almost fell of her chair. “Wow!” And she screamed and yelled. I gave her one of the pictures. Later, I learned, that she placed the picture on her office-desk and that Priscilla Presley noticed this and also wanted a copy of that picture.

Our meeting with Michael and Lisa Marie was special. We were the only people, who were allowed to meet and talk with them. But, I already mentioned the woman who was in the hotel with her little girl! The last evening in Memphis, my best friend, Gerwin, came in the room late in the evening. I was already asleep and wondered what he was doing with that woman. He woke me up and I saw that the woman was crying. Gerwin told me that I must do something and arrange some things. First I didn’t understand what he was talking about. Then came the story. Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley visited the St. Judes Hospital in Memphis and had also little gifts for the children. They also gave the little daughter of the woman we had met in our hotel a Barbie. But, this doll was stolen and although the girl was only 3 or 4 years, she knew that this was something special and she cried, cried and cried. Giving her just another doll would be no option.

My friend knew I had my contacts at Graceland and wanted me to do something for this little girl. At that moment I could do nothing and early that next morning we flew back to Amsterdam. We gave that mother a couple of the pictures of our meeting with Michael and Lisa Marie and I told her, that I would try to do anything to take care of this matter. Back in Holland, I immediately send a fax to Patsy Andersen, at that moment PR Manager of Graceland, and explained the story. She told me, she would try to contact Michael Jackson as soon possible. Every day, my friend Gerwin, asked me if I already had heard something. I told him that it would be probably easier to get in touch with the President of the USA, than with Michael Jackson. On Christmas Eve, 1994, my telephone rang. It was Bridget from Graceland. For me it was not uncommon that I was called by Graceland and I thought that they wanted to wish me a Merry Christmas. I spoke shortly with Bridget and she connected me with Patsy. Patsy told me that she had good news and bad news. The good news was that Michael finally responded and had sent a box with gifts for that little girl. Patsy immediately went to the hospital. When she came to the St. Judes Hospital she learned that the little girl passed away, the day before! Patsy traced through the hospital the address from the mother. Patsy informed Michael Jackson. As I learned later, Michael received this shocking news and sent another package with gifts to the mother and the other child and personally called.* He apologized and spoke a long time with that woman. This is a very rare, but real, story about the other side of Michael Jackson and I wish I could get in contact again with that woman.

Source: –http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-414018?ref=feeds%2Flatest

*sentence edited by MJJJP

Posted in Ethical Journalism, In His Words, Inspirational MJ Stories In Chat, Michael Jackson WorldWide Commenorations, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Endgame, Finally – Mike Taibbi (NBC News correspondent 2005)

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Endgame, Finally

By Mike Taibbi Correspondent

NBC News
updated 5/31/2005 2:08:46 PM ET
COMMENTARY
SANTA MARIA, Calif. — A silver-haired attorney stood and said “The defense rests,” not calling any of the rebuttal witnesses he’d been expected to call, and the vast machine of the Jackson trial press corps poured out of the courtroom to report the news. After 13 weeks, 60 days of testimony, 140 witnesses and more than a dozen years of allegations, rumors, intermittent tabloid frenzy and Ahab-like persistence from a local District Attorney, the question of whether an entertainer of world-class stature is also a pedophile is about to be answered by a jury.

With no final defense rebuttal, the last piece of evidence presented by the prosecution to the 20 local citizens in the jury box (12 primary jurors plus eight alternates) was an hour-long videotape of the understandably sympathetic first police interview with Jackson’s young accuser. Mumbling and with seeming reluctance, the boy related the sordid details of his alleged molestation by the faded popstar over a few nights in the winter of 2003.

“Once you share this you’ll feel better,” prodded Sgt. Steve Robel. The boy, a cancer survivor, fidgeted in his chair, eyes downcast. Robel asked what sports he liked, he said “football and baseball.”

“I wanted to be a pro ballplayer,” the veteran cop said. “I was scouted by the Philadelphia Phillies, they came to talk to me and my parents. But certain things got in the way… it’s called politics.”

Taped allegations
Soon enough the boy told his story. That Jackson trolled internet porn sites with him on the night they first met at Neverland. That he gave him wine, vodka, scotch and rum. That he talked often about sex, shared his collection of pornographic magazines and, “…maybe five times or so,” reached over as the two shared Jackson’s bed, after both had been drinking, and fondled him.

The jurors had heard those specific allegations before when the boy had testified earlier in the trial. I watched the boy on the tape: Were his hesitations and lack of eye contact evidence of the established difficulty male victims of male pedophiles have in first disclosing their molestation? Or was it a performance by a skilled and experienced liar as defense witnesses made him out to be? I looked at the jury box a couple of times: They were watching and listening, but gave no obvious hint of what they were thinking.

“You’ve been through hell,” Sgt. Robel was saying near the end of the interview. “What he has done to you, he is the bad person, not you. You, your mom, your sister, your brother… you’re the good people. You guys are doing the right thing, you’re helping a lot of people.”

Robel asked the boy if he’d “be open to making a phone call to Michael”– a pretext call in hopes that the popstar would make a damaging admission.
The boy shook his head. It was going to be his word… and that of his mother, sister and brother…against Jackson’s. Period. Four months later, with virtually no further substantive investigation beyond the interviews with the accuser and his family, one of the most famous people on the planet would be arrested. The tape ended.

The courtroom lights came back on. The silver-haired lawyer, Jackson’s lead attorney Tom Mesereau, stood up, said his three words, and sat down. A defense source had told me Mesereau had studied the tape and “wasn’t worried about it,” convinced, the source said, that the jury already had an indelible picture of the boy and his family as grifters out to skin any available mark, especially celebrities, with the boy’s sickness as their currency of persuasion.

I ambled deliberately out of court while other reporters raced past me to spread the news worldwide. Jury instructions and final arguments after the holiday weekend, and then those citizens in the box will do their thing. And then, thankfully for me, home.

I have never liked this story and would never have chosen this assignment. Of course there are others among the thousands of stories I’ve reported in nearly four decades at this craft that also would not have been my choice, and an assignment, in my business, is an assignment; but few have left me feeling dispirited and soiled at the end of a day’s work, as this one has. There are others in this press corps who feel the same way, and many of my colleagues and friends and intimates back home have declined to follow this story at all.

It feels voyeuristic, and for a dozen years it has been voyeuristic. There are “journalists” who’ve maintained careers by chasing down and breathlessly reporting every Jackson rumor peddled by real or would-be “witnesses” to the singer’s every move. Many of those rumors, enhanced by each sale and re-sale to the tabloids (print and broadcast), became embedded in the public consciousness because, in the past decade and a half, mainstream journalism itself and its relationship to “tabloid” stories have changed.

‘Buying’ witnesses
I think it began on the day in 1990 when the mainstream press covering the William Kennedy Smith rape trial in Palm Beach (I was there) was restrained outside the courthouse police lines as the key witness in that case was escorted into court on the arm of a “reporter” for one of the newly-popular tabloid TV shows… because that show had “bought” that witness and locked her up exclusively.

And because mainstream news organizations do not “buy” witnesses, the only way to compete on stories the tabloids increasingly “owned” was to legitimize the tabloids themselves. Thus, in the OJ Simpson case, the vaunted New York Times held its nose and started quoting the National Enquirer, because the tabloid (through whatever means) was often out front on that story. And CBS News, on its “Evening News,” used tape and information attributed to the television show “Hard Copy” in its reporting on the 1993 Jackson scandal.

The 9/11 effect
In the meantime, over the years, the preferences of news consumers seemed also to be changing. Or maybe they were being changed. I think—and, let me stress, this is just my opinion—that 9/11 contributed to that change in a fundamental way: The event itself was so incomprehensibly awful that news consumers (consciously or unconsciously) suddenly wanted something different from the news organizations on which they’d depended for years. Less bad news, fewer investigative reporting efforts that required hard work on the part of viewers and readers. Keep it simple, make it pleasant or safely entertaining, make it diverting. The great newsmagazines on the major networks fought shrinking audience shares by changing their fare. Reality television arrived… and exploded as the genre of audience choice. In the cable universe the trial of a fertilizer salesman accused of killing his wife and unborn child became the lead story for a year… audiences wanted that story, the ratings instructed. There was live coverage of Joey Buttafuoco’s sentencing on the same day the realignment of NATO earned a 30-second reader on one network newscast.

And, since November of 2003, the question of whether Michael Jackson fondled a young boy from a family of graspers who may also be con artists has been the epicenter of a worldwide reporting effort by scores of news organizations.

I’m a reporter assigned to this story, so I’m here. Soon, though not soon enough, I’ll be home because one story– Jackson’s guilt or innocence as determined by this apparently hard-working jury—will be over.

But the other story and the bigger one in my mind– how and why we all got here in the first place– is yet to be told.

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/8015799/site/todayshow/ns/today-entertainment/#.UXw8daKcf5t

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