Michael Jackson’s death is a questionable news peg

The King of Pop died five years ago, and outlets are scraping to say something about the anniversary

Coverage was…interesting…on Wednesday, the fifth anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death. Since there’s nothing to cover, so to speak—no new news about the pop star’s demise—outlets used the anniversary as a peg to run a strange variety of archival stories and random cultural ephemera.

Time linked to an infographic about Jackson’s “signature fashion trademarks.” The New Republic ran a piece from 1992 about an extra in a Michael Jackson music video. The New York Daily News republished its original piece reporting his death, and Slate ran what amounts to an extended plug for a book about the star’s final days that came out earlier this month.

CJR isn’t immune to using Jackson’s death as a peg for coverage (one might argue that we are doing a meta version of it right this second). The month after he died, we ran a piece from the editor of the trade publication Anesthesiology News in which its editor complained that human error at the DEA’s communications office cost them a scoop about propofol, the hospital-grade drug that caused Jackson’s death. Also that summer, we covered the fact that the Wall Street Journal compiled a collection of its characteristic stipple drawings of Jackson.

The King of Pop’s permanent niche in our cultural consciousness seems to demand that we say…something, which plays nicely, or perhaps disastrously, into the internet’s tendency to grasp at any hint of clickability in the news cycle’s maelstrom. But the zeitgeist of the Web seems to be moving in the direction of smart, rather than quick, takes. There’s been a recent bloom of analysis sites—the Washington Post’s PostEverything comes to mind as just one recent example. This is an encouraging trend; perhaps, soon, we won’t be exhuming poor Jackson’s corpse every June.

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Kira Goldenberg was an associate editor at CJR from 2012-2015. Follow her on Twitter at @kiragoldenberg. Tags: