Sunday, July 5, 2009

Don Lemon, Al Sharpton, and the Media's Reporting of Michael Jackson

I just saw Don Lemon defending CNN's coverage of Michael Jackson, in response to Al Sharpton's criticism that the media have been much more negative in their reporting of Jackson's death than they were in coverage of Elvis and Frank Sinatra's passing.

Lemon's response that the media covered controversial aspects of Elvis and Sinatra may be be true, but they were more along the lines of footnotes to the lives of the great singers, rather than the questions about Jackson's life that have been trumpeted in just about every report I've seen about him. The fact is that we do not yet know if drugs caused his death - the autopsy report has not yet come in - and Jackson was acquitted of child molestation charges in his 2005 trial. Sharpton is right that these issues are receiving undue attention.

More important, the media should not be in the business of defending itself against criticism of its coverage. We look to the media for news and information, not self-righteous defense of what it chooses to cover. If Sharpton has a critique of the media's coverage of Michael Jackson's life and death, and CNN wants to report that critique, fine. But we don't need to see Don Lemon then say, hey, I don't know if Sharpton was talking about CNN or other media, but CNN has been reporting just fine about Michael Jackson.

In short, the media should report on the world, not report on its reporting, and certainly not give us report cards on its reporting.
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