July 10th, 2009
09:00 AM ET

Too much Michael?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/SHOWBIZ/Music/07/09/jackson.investigation/art.jackson.2005.gi.jpg]

Bruce Weinstein, Ph.D.
Ethics Columnist for BusinessWeek Online

It’s not a shame that the news media are devoting so much attention to the Michael Jackson story.

It’s unethical.

Here’s why.

Democracy is possible only with a truly free press, not one hijacked by a gossip-hungry public. Yes, Michael Jackson was a phenomenally talented human being, and the fact that his art deeply affected millions of people around the world deserves respect. But news organizations are a public trust, and their obsession now with all things Jackson betrays this trust.

Every Jackson story takes up precious airtime that could be devoted to issues that have a more direct bearing on our future: an economy that’s still in shambles, a health care system in desperate need of repair, the G8 summit—aren’t these stories at least as important as speculating about who will get custody of Jackson’s children?

Here’s another serious problem with Jackson mania: physicians who discuss their treatment of Jackson violate doctor-patient confidentiality, and all media (not just news organizations) ought not to enable this. A person does not give up the moral right to privacy after he or she dies.

If you’re as fed up with this abdication of journalistic ethics as I am, you can express your feelings in the most powerful way possible in our TV-crazed culture.

You can simply change the channel.

Or, better yet, turn it off.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Bruce Weinstein • Michael Jackson
soundoff (110 Responses)
  1. Vitri

    couldn't agree more

    July 10, 2009 at 10:48 am |
  2. Leslie

    I totally agree with everything you say. I was wondering when someone would point out these things!

    July 10, 2009 at 10:47 am |
  3. Judy MacGibbon

    Right on-so much happening in the world & we're stuck in Hollywood
    what a shame

    July 10, 2009 at 10:47 am |
  4. Courtney Dodge

    I couldn't possibly agree more! I find it disgusting that SOME (not all) media outlets took it upon themselves to decided for us that we (Americans) are so tired of the "real" stories and news of this country and our economy that we would rather hear about a man who led a very controversial life (at best) all day. Never mind the fact that the economy is in the toilet, other countries are plotting to kill us and security in our government buildings is as secure as a Chucky Cheese...no we all want to hear every detail about Michael Jackson...News Flash for the media...We Don't! Please Move on...we all have!

    July 10, 2009 at 10:47 am |
  5. Carlos M.

    It's sad to see that the first ones to hype up celebrity stories are news channels like CNN. Michael Jackson's death was and is newsworthy but why was it the leading story for every Situation Room and AC 360 and Larry King and the Newsroom?

    July 10, 2009 at 10:47 am |
  6. Colleen O'Neal

    The public is grieving & remembering him for what he is known most for, being an innovative highly creative cat. it's part of the grieving process. Don't worry, you will have time for your precious airtime. But....what is more precious than a life? I could use a little more coverage on Farrah, Ed, & other influential high profile entertainers that have passed recently. Oh and FYI, amidst all the tv time devoted to Michael, I have managed to have a life, one he will no longer have.

    July 10, 2009 at 10:46 am |
  7. Marilyn May

    How many different ways can you spin a story on the nation's economy? How many different angles can one take on covering the health care system? Same old politics, same old scandals, same old, same old...just new faces & names. The extended coverage of Michael Jackson's contribution to the world was a welcomed break!

    Shmon...hee hee hee!

    July 10, 2009 at 10:45 am |
  8. Neli

    I completely agree with you. The media coverage had been excessive. There are definitely more important issues that we need to pay more attention.
    I appreciate the fact, that another person as influential as Mr. Anderson Cooper, address this issue.

    July 10, 2009 at 10:45 am |
  9. wali

    Those who complain are the one's who have judged,jury and tried him as guilty and will always see him that way even after the man has passed on......I always continue to be fascinated with Micheal Jackson

    July 10, 2009 at 10:44 am |
  10. jesselane

    salute. i too think, after the memorial ... everything should slow down. the guy is dead. give him a break. let him rest in peace. Love you MJ.

    July 10, 2009 at 10:42 am |
  11. Janet Yates

    Thank You!! I am a fan of Micheal Jackson but it is beyond annoying and to the point of insane when you can't watch a news show or entertainment program without MJ mentioned every 5 seconds or so. Luckly I live in Canada where the news coverage is a bit less and I can just change to a local station.

    July 10, 2009 at 10:41 am |
  12. Jennifer in New Jersey

    While I agree that we don't need to be discussing his finances or the custody of his children, I feel that the discussion of doctors enabling patients with drugs and the tacit agreements to allow prescription drug abuse is worth having. More people in America are affected by this, directly or indirectly, every day. I am expecting this to turn into a criminal investigation, and if it raises awareness and pushes reform, all the better. While some of Michael's medical treatment may fall under doctor-patient privilege, it is too easy to excuse it all as "unethical." Let's not make it easy to hide the malpractice and criminal behavior of fawning doctors.

    Those doctors killed Michael Jackson. If we let them get away with killing a high-profile celebrity, who will speak up when our family members die?

    July 10, 2009 at 10:41 am |
  13. Cecilia Mundy

    I so agree about the Doctor / Patient confidental issue. I thought he was one of a kind that was so spectatular but enough is enough let the family have privacy now to deal with in privacy the issues the need to resolve and absorb.

    July 10, 2009 at 10:39 am |
  14. Joanne Pacicca

    Not only am I fed up with the journalistic ethics, but also the fact that the yellow journalism just simply does not add up! If MJ did consume the astounding amounts of various narcotics that his so called companions claim he did, he would not be functional, specifically, he would not be able to walk and talk much more...perform.

    If we look at the last week of his life, he was indeed performing. The promoters are stating hundreds of hours of rehearsal footage.

    Some aspect of this excess can not ring true. He may have "shopped doctors", been addicted to prescription drugs; however, the amounts, timing and the aspect of the physical ailments he notably endured combined with patient-physician privilege do not add up to the compact "story" labeled as shocking "breaking news" and massive narcotic consumption. Must be someone sees a dollar to be made by this type of "confession".

    July 10, 2009 at 10:38 am |
  15. Gail Ellis Duncan

    Totally agree! let's move on.

    July 10, 2009 at 10:38 am |
  16. Angela

    No, there is not too much Michael jackson co verage. I lo ve watching the coverage of this one of a kind entertainer and human being. I wake up to coverage of hiim. I am anxious to find out who these doctors are that were givng him these harmful medical cocktails, and I hope that they will be reprimanded properly. Despite the fact that Michael had the financial means to get what he wanted, a legitamite doctor would not have given him medication that was sure to harm him. When doctors graduate medical school they take an oath stating that THEY WILL DO NO HARM, and I don't believe that money is supposed to be a part of the equation.

    July 10, 2009 at 10:38 am |
  17. Steven Capsuto

    I agree 100%. By all means, report on the deaths of notable people and run a short tribute video, but this obsessive cult-of-celebrity stuff has no place in serious news media. As you said, important stories that affect us all have been ignored or given short shrift for more than a week so that we can watch footage of an empty theater for hours on end and be assured that a great tribute will take place there in six hours (five, four, three two...). This is a grotesque abdication of journalistic responsibility.

    Worse, the endless reports speculating about private matters such as the contents of a famous person's will or who will raise his children are puerile celebrity gossip and should be left to TMZ and Entertainment Tonight and other "news" sources that exist solely to help the famous stay famous.

    July 10, 2009 at 10:38 am |
  18. David Miscavige's Scotch Addiction

    "Democracy is possible only with a truly free press, not one hijacked by a gossip-hungry public."

    I believe you mean "not one hijacked by a gossip-hungry newsroom management". Don't blame the public on this one. It's not the public's fault for merely consuming the gruel being dispensed. It's just that there's nothing else to eat.

    Blame the management of CNN for taking the lazy and financially safe rip-and-read route than investing in serious news gathering and reporting. There's a revolution in Iran, a coup in Honduras, a crazy man with missiles running North Korea and crackdowns in China. These issues are rarely touched.

    We did, however, see a young girl grieving her father cry as she was forced to speak in front of a crowd of thousands and a broadcast audience of what could very well be billions. And gosh her dad was weird, wasn't he?

    There are vast elements of the public who are completely disinterested in the tabloidization of news. It's this particular institution's fault for not tapping into that market.

    July 10, 2009 at 10:38 am |
  19. Michelle

    So disgusted with the mass media coverage in protest some of us refused to watch any coverage of the memorial at all, but rather put our efforts toward honoring him with his own words and his love for the people on this planet. We refused to forget the rest of the world and the people who needed their story told. Many many other people died, were wounded and suffered during this media induced blackout who cries for them in the darkness of the night when you cant get the picture of someone bleeding to death out of your mind. Yes MJ was a excellant singer, dancer, he broke some barriers but i really think he would be appaulled by the media just forgetting the rest of the world that he obviously cared about.

    July 10, 2009 at 10:38 am |
  20. T Brown

    I think there is too much focus on the whole Micheal Jackson death. I understand he was a great entertainer. I do not recall though Ed McMahon or Farrah Fawcett or even Billy Mayes getting this much coverage! They were all famous people too. Not only was Micheals death a shock to everyone but so was the others!

    July 10, 2009 at 10:37 am |
  21. Anna

    Done, and done. A while ago.

    July 10, 2009 at 10:37 am |
  22. Toni Bogart

    I agree, the death of Michael Jackson was a tradegy and the loss of a very talented and complicated artist. Much of the media exploited him when he was alive, making fun of many things...and now, he is the hero of all the world!

    There is way too much information and speculation about things...it is hard for his family to settle the estate with all the voices and opinions permeating his state of affairs. Let him rest in peace, and let his family grieve and bond together with dignity.

    July 10, 2009 at 10:36 am |
  23. Monica

    I don't find it unethical, I am a huge Michael fan andI appreciate this coverage. But if you ant to get techinical with important coverage, how about the fact that the Michael Jackson tragedy is bringing light to a huge epidemic issue in this counrty and that being of PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE. I can open up any newspaper in my area and find a pain management ad advertising how I can get my hands on these poweful drugs if I just complaint of a neck or back pain. Maybe you should look at this from this perspective, and realize that Americans are in the denial and the only ones benefiting from these addictions are the drug companies.

    July 10, 2009 at 10:36 am |
  24. Joan Mangan-Doucette

    It was too much and, yes, I did turn it off. I am very disappointed in CNN and have gone "news" shopping on other stations.

    July 10, 2009 at 10:36 am |
  25. Bb

    It is unfortunate that there are more people now that will leave the madness on, than those of us that do turn it off. I'm actually disapointed that Anderson Cooper played so heavily into it. I can see Entertainment Tonight or Access Hollywood spending so much time on the Michael Jackson death/funeral/carziness but for serious Journalists to get so caught up in it is the worst. My 84 year old Mother couldn't watch her afternoon soaps....every channel covered it. It was stupid and insulting for those of us that didn't want to watch.
    Yes, I grew up on MichaelJackson, but I also grew up on Madonna and led Zepplin and Lynol Ritchie. He is not the only entertainer out there. For goodness sake. Mother Teresa didn't get so much coverage when she died. I'm glad it's over and I hope never to see such a discusting media display for someone so passe' again. Save the glory train for the Barack Obamas and Bill Clintons and Ted Kennedys of the world. Save the glory for Al Gore and T. Boone Pickens. Save it for Bill Gates. Save it for your local firefighter or police officer or local military hero. Save it for someone that really deserves it.

    July 10, 2009 at 10:35 am |
  26. Heather

    I think stories covering Michael Jackson should dominate every news station until BOTH boys who accused him of molestation come forward and tell the truth. This is pain that caused his addiction that eventually killed him with the help of unethical doctors who did not heed the hypocratic oath "First, to do no harm". Then I think everyone involved who aided his addiction should be charged for killing him.

    July 10, 2009 at 10:34 am |
  27. Jenny Crane

    ok so this is cnn right so can you guys tell obama said hi? o and leave mjs kids alone!!

    July 10, 2009 at 10:34 am |
  28. Diane

    I have lost so much respect for Anderson Cooper and Larry King since the day Jackson died. They beat the Anna Nicole story to death and now it is even worse with this guy.
    It is easy to turn the channel but then the same junk comes up again. What else is going in the world? I don't know. I have turned off my tv early in the evening almost every night and then I turn it on in the hopes that they have moved on but so far no luck. They seem to think the whole world is interested and this is nowhere close to being the case.

    July 10, 2009 at 10:34 am |
  29. John Lavitt

    Ours is the age of distraction. . . Because our minds are jazzed. Because we fear boredom. Because we are so hooked on infodrug, on intravenous entertainment, that any break in the action seems unnatural, a vacuum. And yet each of us intuits this too: We are lacking something, something for which Siskel, Ebert, Safire, Keanu, Shaq and Naughty by Nature are insufficient substitutes. Solitude, silence, darkness.
    We are past the point in human history where the deep currents of existence belong to us by birthright — we have to fight to block out some of the rain of information, entertainment, stress. We have to fight not to turn on the TV, to walk into the room and savor the quiet. To get started we have to take the long view and remind ourselves that no one ever lay on his deathbed wishing he'd watched more Matlock.
    — Bill McKibben

    July 10, 2009 at 10:33 am |
  30. J.R. Hochanadel

    I agree completely. Supposedly serious news organizations have turned into gossip/entertainment television, providing a forum for every fame seeking friend/relative/nobody to spout their theories and speculations. The distinction between CNN and E-TV gets finer by the hour. Plus, the doctors aren't the only ones acting unethically. How about the rabbi who was his spiritual adviser and now recounts every intimate detail of their conversations. In the end, it's a chicken and egg situation with the media saying they're giving the public what it wants, yet feeding that hunger with salacious, speculative over coverage.

    July 10, 2009 at 10:33 am |
  31. Monique

    I gotta agree with this perspective. Michael wasn't even memorialized yet and the news media went bananas over his will, his children, and his ex-wife. He still can't rest in peace until the cause of his death is determined!

    When we know what the cause of his shocking death is, leave him alone and let him rest in peace!

    July 10, 2009 at 10:32 am |
  32. Dawn Heinle

    I completely agree with your analysis. This is too much.

    One note to mention: America is hungry for a diversion in these hard times. The Michael Jackson saga fills that need.

    Please remember, all ethics fell by the wayside long before MJ's doctors were revealing their inside knowledge, Similar to when he was alive, now his death just magnifies this situation; the glaring flaw in journalism today.


    July 10, 2009 at 10:31 am |
  33. NecMoney3

    Leave him alone...... nothing more can be done......the ultimate has already taken place!!!!!!!!!!

    July 10, 2009 at 10:31 am |
  34. M. Ledesma

    I agree...TOTALLY!

    July 10, 2009 at 10:31 am |
  35. Laura

    Wealthy celebrities and friends of Michael Jackson in the entertainment industry:

    Here's an idea: Why don't you all pitch in and contribute to the memorial service that is costing the City of Los Angeles alot of money during this recession time?

    You know you love Michael, but we cannot afford all of this. Thank you.

    July 10, 2009 at 10:31 am |
  36. William

    I get my news from Twitter, watch TV for entertainment.

    July 10, 2009 at 10:30 am |
  37. Alicia

    oh the irony of this post on CNN after that Larry King interview. Pretty much after all the Larry King interviews dealing with Michael Jackson.

    July 10, 2009 at 10:30 am |
  38. Kristina H

    I think it is a shame that in our society we can't even just change the channel, or pick up a different newspaper. The Michael Jackson story has infiltrated every media outlet and continues to overshadow the important issues facing our country and the world. In order to get actual news about real events a person has to search for it and only if they are diligent enough to find it hidden within the deepest regions of the news will they know what is going on in this world. It’s a sad day when the biggest story that came out of the first day of the G-8 summit was President Obama's comments about how after the chaos of the Jackson funeral is over, then maybe people will once again give thought to Nuclear Weapons.

    July 10, 2009 at 10:29 am |
  39. Michael

    Stop all Michael Jackson coverage. Let him rest in peace.

    July 10, 2009 at 10:28 am |
  40. Laura

    I agree with Bruce Weinstein. Whatever happen to privacy and confidentiality? Because of all this gossip may be why Michael could not sleep, was deeply affected and disturbed by rumors.

    We teach children not to gossip, not to bully. Yet, on a larger scale, we are bullying Michael Jackson, and now his family, for years, talking about things that should not be on the news. All of this is damaging and disturbing to the Jackson family, I'm sure. Stop the Jeckel-Hyde behavior of "we love him/let's find things wrong with him" behavior. It simply is not right! I say get rid of tabloid tv. Let's hear news that helps and effects our lives and that we can do something about. Update on the investigation is okay, but do not spend every minute gossiping. Please.

    July 10, 2009 at 10:28 am |
  41. Donna Wood, Lil' Tennessee

    Thank you Dr. Weinstein, You are absolutely right. I don't understand why people don't just turn something off if they don't really want the information being dicussed.If it's that bad for you yes, turn it off or turn the channel for heavens sake.Some of us really want to make sense of what happened to Mr. Jackson. Who knows , it might just save somebody elses life somewhere down the road who might find thierselves in a similar situation. I think this might be one of those wakeup calls. Anyone care to take it?

    Donna Wood
    Lexington, Tennessee

    July 10, 2009 at 10:11 am |
  42. Carol B. in MD

    Bullseye! Great blog & a voice of reason.

    July 10, 2009 at 10:08 am |
  43. d

    MJ- music genius, yes
    MJ- barrier breaker, yes
    MJ-consumate performer, yes
    MJ-heart of gold, loved his kids, yes
    MJ-drug addict, yes
    MJ-insecure weirdo, yes
    MJ-bizzare behavior, yes
    Haven't you guys got anything else to report on what's going on in this country or the world?

    July 10, 2009 at 9:58 am |
  44. Patty

    I could not agree more. While I agree the general news story was appropriately reported contemporaneously with Jackson's passing, all of the follow-up coverage seems little better than tabloid news on our major news channels. I am constantly amazed at my fellow educated professionals who can recite just about any Jackson fact, but have no ability to discuss events occurring in Iran or China, or even in the United States, other than those events associated with celebrities. It is sad to see the news media so obviously bow to ratings..

    July 10, 2009 at 9:55 am |
  45. Melissa

    Oh stop. This much airtime was devoted to Diana and Elvis. Thats life. Deal with it.

    The only problem I have is the unsubstantiated rumor claims coming from people that the news keeps reporting as though they are true.

    I long ago learned not to trust a word from the press about Michael Jackson.

    July 10, 2009 at 9:53 am |
  46. yolanda

    i think it alot of bad tings sad about micheal when people dont know what he went trough i feel i live his life i was mjstreated as a child and i didnt get on drugs but i acted weierd but im 37 now and in dec2006 i had segery and2007 jan i was addicted to oxicodones taken any where from30to40 a day and it took that void away from my lonely soul and hurt heart and no one could tell me to get off of them and u wouldnt know if i was on them or not unless i took maybe 30 then i would nod alot i have alot to say that could explain cause u dont eat for days u loose people that love u cause u wanthem to go away just to get hig ive never been on a drug ever in my life until i had tat surgey and when i couldnt get it from the doc i would buy off the streets and the withdrawls r so bad that u cant even get out the bed but once u but 10 in ur mouth at one time u jump right up and is normal but i do have bipolar and that have alot to do with this to please call me 919-423-2247

    July 10, 2009 at 9:50 am |
  47. Roslin

    Enough already. As journalists you should be sticking to the "facts" as they exist. You are producing whole segments on Michael Jackson out of guesswork and supposition. Thank goodness for the likes of Mr. Brando! Move-on 360 – find some real "facts" to report. Your show disappoints.

    July 10, 2009 at 9:47 am |
  48. carmen luisa

    This is true, to much coverage, every chanel is just talking about this and its been two weeks since he died. Even in other countries is the same, get over it, there are more important news to cover.

    July 10, 2009 at 9:42 am |
  49. earle,florida

    Diversions,diversions,diversions is the governments optimum control of information to the public,and has been happening for the past thirty years. Now without newsprint in the coming five years,with only the internet to facillitate so called,"controled free speech" ,and accuracy of foreign,and american journalist to depend on,things do look bleak? I'm afraid that not only the government controls free speech,but rather a few wealthy individuals throughout the world ,that have owned the mass media,and work hand,and hand with all the current events happening now ,and in the future,deleteing,and masking what could very well be ,"The True Story"! Sad times ahead ,are surely coming freedom's way,...

    July 10, 2009 at 9:27 am |
  50. Jenny Crane

    Anderson Cooper is Michael Jacksons kids father! I heard it today!!!

    July 10, 2009 at 9:06 am |
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