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Comment » Opinion & Analysis » Email to a friendEmail to Author Print RSS Text Size:Monday, June 29, 2009Reaction to Jackson's death just a tiny bit overdone In this section »'I offer our heartfelt sorrow'Journalists are supposed to be against abusesCreating a climate where everyone enjoys equalityHarsh realities start to dawn on Irish and GermansJUNE 29TH, 1983: FF members got hot under the collar over planning BillAdvertisement hoax, weasel versus hawk and cow's strange dietTruly celebrity is a ruthless business, but it is startling to discover hard news has become celebrity's willing slave, writes ANN MARIE HOURIHANEWELL THE jokes started arriving at eight on Friday morning, a sure sign of celebrity death.

Some of the jokes were too long for your average mobile phone, and so ended with the dispiriting punchline *some text missing*, and went dribbling on in to the afternoon.

The news bulletins were sort of like that as well.At lunchtime Sean O'Rourke, our King of News, interviewed our Taoiseach.

But Sean still had time to ask a man from Cork "So when did you first come into contact with the King of Pop?"But it's Farrah Fawcett we must feel sorry for.

Even the jokes about Farrah's death had Michael Jackson as their punchline.

Her death was upstaged, even though there are many more lovely photographs of the adult Farrah than there are of the adult Michael.

"Death of an angel" said the Irish Independent in a little headline about Farrah, but this sweet sentiment was overwhelmed by a huge colour photograph of Michael.Truly celebrity is a ruthless business, but it was startling to discover that hard news had become celebrity's willing slave.

Michael Jackson's fans have always been known for their irrational love of him.

They think that he was a genius and have maintained their manic devotion through several unpleasant court cases.

But who could have known that the newsrooms contained so many Jackson fans? It really is quite surprising.

Perhaps it was the heat on Friday, but it rapidly became obvious that the senior news editors are now at an age at which one chorus of Billie Jean sets them trembling with potent memories of their youth.But we're not all like that.

Look, Michael Jackson's death is very sad, but there is a dim possibility that the reaction to it was just a tiny little bit overdone.

Morning Ireland responded to the news of his demise by going completely over the top with its coverage, and then bringing in a brass band.

Sky went completely mental.

On Thursday night, in the 45 minutes coming up â€" as they say on Sky â€" to midnight, their schedule, normally set in stone, was thrown out the window.

Sky even dumped the weather forecast.

That's how important Michael Jackson's death was â€" more important than the weather.After three quarters of an hour of looking at the suburban road outside the Los Angeles hospital to which the unfortunate Jackson had been taken, and after 45 minutes of listening to an American journalist who knew someone who had once worked as Jackson's make-up person (now there's a job) you kind of lost the will to live yourself, and that was before the Sky correspondent at the Glastonbury music festival appeared to give us his thoughts on the tragic events of the evening.

And all of that was a night's sleep away from Joe Duffy on Friday afternoon, asking the man who had just played an acoustic version of Thriller (inadvisable) where he had been when he'd heard the news.In our house we were divided as to whether it was an outrage to compare Michael Jackson's death to that of Elvis, or whether it was an outrage to treat Jackson's death as if it was akin to the assassination of President Kennedy.

Now there was a death.And Martin Luther King's assassination â€" that was significant.

That warranted blanket coverage.

Or the attack on the twin towers.

Or the tsunami, back in the days before tsunamis became purely financial catastrophes.

But dying of a heart attack at the age of 50 (I'm sorry, I know this is difficult for the middle aged among us) is not a global news story, no matter how many records you have sold.While some news organisations were admirably succinct â€" "Jacko dead" (the Irish Sun ) â€" most of the coverage of this unfortunate event could be most kindly described as excessive.

What must exiled Iranians and Iraqis feel when they see a car bomb that killed 60 people, or teenagers being gunned down in the street, getting 30 seconds of screen or radio time when the death of a peculiar (to put it mildly) millionaire is treated as global news? It's not even as if there was that much to say about the death itself on Friday, with no cause of death established, and the allegedly dodgy doctor only beginning to emerge from the tabloid gloom.

Also on the News At One on Friday was the remarkable announcement that Age Action Ireland was highlighting the abuse of old people by family members and banks.

Banks! Our old people are being abused by our banks! Financial abuse they call it, apparently.

Now that's pretty interesting, I would have said.

I would like to have said that the news that our banks are abusing our old people was surprising, but of course I cannot say that.

In any case, by this point the listeners were plumb tuckered out.

We'd sat through the interview with the Taoiseach and the news that Michael Jackson had ordered Kentucky Fried Chicken, insisting that the chicken should be well done, during his brief stay in this country.

Michael Jackson's death had leaked into every other news item.

Presumably the banks are going to blame it on the boogie.

The rest of us can only hold our breath and wait for sanity to be restored.This article appears in the print edition of the Irish TimesComments Feed 0 Comment(s) »Leave a comment »Loading...OpenID:Loading...Login:Password:Loading...Haloscan login:Haloscan password:Loading...Login:Password:Re-type Password:Name (*):Mail (*): (will not be published)Rating:Comment:Add picturesComments on this article are now closedWhen submitted, your comment will be moderated and, once approved, will appear on the site shortly.Messages which may be considered defamatory, which incite hatred or contain foul or abusive language, or are gratuitously offensive, will not be published.

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