This afternoon, in my workplace and on Facebook, friends and I spent about an hour wondering whether we could believe TMZ’s reports of Michael Jackson’s death. “Since when TMZ is a reliable source?!?” asked a friend on Facebook. “Since when are other news sites reliable sources?” responded another friend. “Excuse me, i have to get back to watching CNN, they are quoting some facebook pages and twitterstreams on the news.”
Was it just denial that kept us from mourning until CNN (finally) chimed in? Are we prejudiced against TMZ because of the vacuity of its coverage and employ of pappaazzi? Several thoughtful responses came in to my Twitter query along those lines. (@dansinker raised a related point.) Mark Glaser, @mediatwit, anwered that ours suspicion “Shows that we have *varying* levels of trust for random tweets, TMZ, Drudge, LAT blog, AP and CNN (possibly in that order).” Erik Hersman, @whiteafrican surmised that such skepticism is “probably just hardwired into US ppl that way…I think non US ppl are more skeptical of MSM period.” Mike Janseen, @mjanssen, emphasized that that traiditonal journalism’s “sourcing lends more credibility. Without it we’re denied a way to assess the context of the information presented.”
Wikipedia, for one, has a section on TMZ critcism full of questionable ethical practices, but I nothing about inaccurate reporting. When it comes to celebrity reporting, is there any reason– other than snobbery and disdain for pappaazzi publications– to disbelieve the gossip sites while waiting for traditional journalism organizations to pipe in?
PS, three top Michael Jackson links of the evening:
- Dan O’Neill’s Appreciation of Michael Jackson: “I fully believe, with my entire heart, that Jesus Christ Himself came down from heaven in 1982 and sat next to a man named Michael Jackson while he wrote a record called Thriller.”
- Andrew Sullivan’s obit: “There are two things to say about him. He was a musical genius; and he was an abused child.”
- At our Michael memorial dinner, one of my hosts and my wife lamented the absence of his music in the media coverage and Facebook chatter. Enter, thanks to a tip from Dan Sinker, a live tribute mix from Maseo of De La Soul. (A capella Billie Jean, insane.)