Sixty-four percent of people polled for a Pew News Interest Index survey said there has been “too much” press coverage of Michael Jackson’s death.

MarketWatch’s Jon Friedman, in his critique today of both Jackson and Madoff coverage, focuses not on quantity of coverage but on what he found lacking in the coverage. Writes Friedman:

The media’s most glaring deficiency was to focus almost exclusively on the glitz and glamour and overlook the nuances. Journalists should’ve done a much better job of explaining the big picture beyond the splashy headlines…


They talked endlessly about such subjects as what was contained in Jackson’s will and what Madoff did with his ill-gotten gains. That’s fine; it’s always a useful idea to follow the money. Trouble is, the journalists themselves had no idea about either conundrum.

All they did was blab on and speculate, without offering hard facts or original ideas…

Too much speculation and splash. What would Friedman have done? What was he looking for in Jackson coverage that he didn’t get?

I wish I could’ve learned more about the nuts and bolts of what it means for a performer to embark on a ballyhooed 50-concert engagement. How rigorous are the rehearsals? What kind of exercise regimen does a performer undertake? Exactly what kind of psychological pressure does someone like Michael Jackson feel about returning to the stage after a lengthy absence?

Really? That’s what Friedman found lacking? Yes, because…

These are significant points. It could be argued that Jackson, who may have died as a result of drug abuse, felt such a tremendous strain that he increased his intake of painkillers to cope with the responsibility.

…isn’t that, er, speculation?

More from Friedman:

The Jackson concert series had the makings of a terrific story. It was thick in drama. Could Jackson make a comeback worthy of Frank Sinatra or Elvis Presley? Would the audiences be ecstatic about his return? How would the music hold up? And could Jackson do well enough in London to excite promoters to allow him to launch a worldwide tour?

Nothing speculative or “splash”-centric about any of that.

Meantime— oh, self-awareness!—I just caught a segment on MSNBC (chyron: “MICHAEL JACKSON CIRCUS”) which involved entertainment reporter Courtney Hazlett (MSNBC’s ring master for the Circus) filing a report from the gates of Neverland (the Circus’s center ring), David Shuster marveling over how “people are setting up tents” outside Neverland (cut to footage of news satellite trucks jockeying for spots among the white news tents), and an US Weekly reporter offering additional insights such as how this story “is worth a lot of money to a lot of people.”

These “people.” Creating this “circus.” (What do they think, a sucker is born every minute?)

Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.