The last two days, no matter where you were in the world, if you looked at a newspaper or turned on a TV, you saw the face of Michael Jackson. On Friday night's half-hour broadcast of "NBC Nightly News" host Brian Williams spent three minutes discussing news other than Michael Jackson.
Now that the shock has warn off, fans are celebrating Jackson's life, rather than mourning his death. News of possible drug use is surfacing in the Jackson case, and to fill the time, reporters are now discussing his financial empire, which is in disarray. But we already new that. The news media is now finding time to devote to other matters.
The main beneficiary of the sudden and worldwide media storm over the death of Jackson was South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who disappeared for most of last week, leaving his family and staff scratching their heads wondering where he was. The state was without a leader, leading some to speculate what would have happened if there had been a state-wide emergency. The Republican governor held a news conference Wednesday admitting to an extra-marital affair with a woman in Argentina.
On Thursday morning, Gov. Sanford was the was the talk of the media, because we all like a good scandal. Then Michael Jackson died, and Sanford got to dodge the spotlight for a few days, and all the other news went on the back burner. We took a few days to mourn a legend, and now other news items are beginning to pop up in between Jackson coverage. Now we're learning that on at least one occasion Gov. Sanford used taxpayer money to fund his extra-curricular travels. In other news, his wife has gained national media exposure for refusing to stand by the governor after he admitted to having an affair. This breaks the normal spousal response in such matters.
Ex-Governor of New York Eliot Spitzer's wife famously stood next to him last year when he admitted to seeing a high-priced call girl. Silda Spitzer, a Harvard Law School graduate, was noticeably uncomfortable, but she remained stoic, and she held hands with her husband as they walked off the podium after his statement. Hillary Clinton famously stood by her husband through the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Although he resigned in disgrace as governor, Spitzer remains married. We all know about Hillary Clinton. Gov. Sanford, on the other hand, hasn't indicated that he will resign as governor of South Carolina. What we do know, and the news media is eating it up, is that his wife, Jenny Sanford, no longer wants to have anything to do with him. A new media star is born. Jenny Sanford has broken the mold. She's taken the spotlight off her husband. Now she's the news.
In other developments, government leaders around the world are censoring Internet reports of the Iranian protests out of fear it could cause a revolution from their own repressed citizenry, according to the Washington Post. Bloggers and Twitter users in China have colored their profiles a light green in support of Iranian protesters, and some observers have noted parallels between the protests and China's own Tiananmen Square uprising of 1989. The Communist Party in China is reportedly using the playbook of Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by portraying the Iranian unrest as a Western conspiracy rather than a homegrown movement. Other countries, such as Cuba and Myanmar, are also working to stop Iranian news reports from gaining attention.
The House of Representatives held a moment of silence Friday for Michael Jackson. While the world wasn't watching, they also, by an incredibly close vote, 219 to 212, passed a climate change bill, despite claims among Republicans that the economy would worsen if we forced to have a "national energy tax." While Republicans complained that the bill would be a "massive transfer of wealth" from the United States to foreign countries, Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan said that the bill was needed so that the country would not be dependent on people who want to "fly planes into our buildings." The Republicans fear that the bill will raise the average family's energy bill by thousands of dollars a year. The Environmental Protection Agency said it would amount to a yearly increase of less than $111. The goal, according to Democrats, is to protect the country's national security, improve the environment, and boost the economy.
Back to news of Michael Jackson, as we continue to look into the possibility that drugs were the cause of his death, his family is looking through his finances, which are a confusing mess. His creditors will be busy for years, according to a report in the New York Times. After piling up millions of dollars in debt, Jackson needed a last-second $24 .5 million loan last year just to keep creditors from liquidating the Neverland Ranch in Northern California. "He never kept track of what he was spending," Alvin Malnik, a former adviser, told the Times. "He would indiscriminately charter jets. He would buy paintings for $1.5 million. You couldn't do that every other week and expect your books to balance." Jackson does have his assets, notably $1 billion in publishing rights. His biggest asset in his collection are the rights to the Beatles song catalog, which he bought for $47.5 million in 1985, causing a rift with Paul McCartney. The two had been good friends up until then, but the sale of the Beatles catalog to Jackson was big news after McCartney made headlines with his displeasure.
Speaking of money, and the fact that the news media is making room for non-Michael Jackson news, Bernie Madoff is expected to be sentenced on Monday to 150-years in the slammer, the maximum, at least if prosecutors get their way. It would be an unprecedented sentence, but because of the unprecedented nature of the crime, the maximum would seem appropriate. It was the biggest financial crime in history, and if Michael Jackson had died three days later, it would have gone unnoticed.
News of Michael Jackson's death shocked the world, but life goes on. And so does the news.