Michael Jackson's Final Minutes Relived in Cable Hype

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Michael Jackson's Final Minutes Relived in Cable Hype
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Michael Jackson's Final Minutes Relived in Cable Hype

Michael Jackson's private physician was not behaving "normally" on the day the singer died, apparently from an overdose of the high-powered sedative that Dr. Conrad Murray had been administering to him. People not behaving normally in the company of Jackson would not, on its own, seem to be news. And the same extends to those lavishing "Trial of the Century"-themed coverage on Murray's trial for involuntary manslaughter.

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The Los Angeles Times' James Rainey delivers a hearty raspberry to the HLN network and its breathless treatment of Murray's trial. It's as much about inflating the event to drive viewership as it is about news, Rainey argues.

But the Murray trial saddles HLN and other media outlets less with those striking moments and more with a tale that seems all too familiar — the brilliant but tormented entertainer who becomes victim of his own compulsions. An inattentive, irresponsible, even criminal, doctor may have hastened the ending. Still, hasn't most of the audience already decided that Jackson was already doomed by his own desperate and addictive personality?

Cable television is not a place, however, for readily accepting what is. It's a place for reimagining what might be. HLN has aimed every ounce of its firepower at expanding and extending the Jackson story. That means dragging in front of its cameras CNN medical authority Dr. Sanjay Gupta, HLN house shrink Dr. Drew Pinsky, a gallery of former Jackson family employees and, of course, every pop legal theorist not lashed to a trial lectern. "Unleash the lawyers!" Grace commands. HLN obliges.

Cringe-inducement abounds here, as when one of the HLN staffers calls out to compliment the passing Janet Jackson on her shoes. (Perhaps there's a reason they took the word "News" out of the channel's official name?) Despite the hyperventilation of the anchors, not very many TV viewers are actually watching, Rainey says, and finds a network employee, of all people, to join in his disdain.

Not far away, I talked to a television sound man. He was happy to be working, though a bit tired of the crammed sidewalk scrum and the "lunatic fringe" fans he has to elbow for space.

"I wonder how this can be in even the first five stories in the news," said the sound guy, who didn't want to give his name for fear of angering his bosses. "It's so inconsequential. It's a sad commentary on what we care about." A fleet of satellite trucks and news vans crowded two entire sides of a city block, confirming that his opinion did not hold much sway.

Inside the courthouse, meanwhile, things do not seem to be going well for Murray. Paramedics testified that he didn't disclose valuable information to them – including that he had given Jackson the drug, propofol, that an autopsy found to be a major factor in his death – and that he was gathering vials and drug containers rather than attending to Jackson as they worked to save him.

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From The Wall Street Journal:

Senneff said that he tried to glean health information about the patient, who seemed “underweight” and afflicted by a “chronic illness,” Dr. Murray didn’t initially respond. Instead, Senneff said, “he just looked at me.”

Senneff said he repeatedly asked Murray “what’s his underlying health condition?” Finally, he said, Murray replied that he was only treating Jackson for exhaustion and dehydration, and that he had only administered a dose of Lorazepam, a sedative and muscle relaxant, to the singer.

When Senneff asked Murray when the emergency began, the doctor replied “it happened right when I called you.” Citing inconsistencies like Jackson’s skin, which was cold to the touch, and his eyes, which were open and dry when Senneff first examined the body, the paramedic felt Murray’s account was inaccurate. “Simply, that did not add up to me,” Senneff told the prosecutor.

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