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Some quotes from

Jackson case just too much of a trial?

Robin Abcarian, April 11, 2005 LA Times

The taboo nature of the allegations against the pop superstar may have helped mute public interest in the details.

Bill Bastone, co-founder and editor of the Smoking Gun, a website that posts legal documents, is perplexed about readers' reaction to his Michael Jackson child-molestation trial coverage. In February, the site obtained and published sealed grand jury testimony in the case, scooping the national media as it has done in a number of celebrity cases over the last several years. But the Smoking Gun's readers, said Bastone, were unmoved.

"Any kind of feedback that we've gotten has been pretty negative," he said. [...]
Our audience is tired of Michael Jackson.

As the trial in Santa Maria has become more graphic particularly in the last week, when a former security guard testified in detail about a sexual act he claimed to have seen Jackson perform on a naked 10-year-old boy more than a decade ago what some have called the story's "ick factor" has lowered the appetite of listeners, viewers and readers nationwide.


"A lot of the celebrity media is based on this voyeuristic paradigm who is Brad Pitt with and so on," said Ken Baker, West Coast executive editor of Us Weekly magazine. "But there's a line that is drawn, and that line is that people don't want to know what Michael Jackson did in that bedroom.


Bastone agreed: "People will watch and talk about the Scott Peterson trial, where a guy will get convicted of killing his unborn baby and wife, but you can't talk about this, it's a taboo subject."


"There's not the daily obsession, partly I think because it's an uncomfortable subject matter and partly because there are no cameras in the courtroom," he said, adding that the case has not offered the escapism of other celebrity trials. "It's tawdry. It just gets a little too close to the bone and strips away all the celebrity and sensationalism and turns it into something grotesque."

At People magazine, which devoted five covers to the Peterson murder trial, deputy managing editor Larry Hackett said his staff has struggled to find a way to cover the Jackson trial.


"This magazine comes into people's homes and sits on their coffee tables," said Hackett. "I have two small children 6 and 8 and I turn the radio off when this story comes on."


Not all news outlets have experienced Jackson trial fatigue. Court TV, which is devoting significant time to covering the Jackson trial, has experienced a spike in viewership of 150% over the same period last year, which the cable network's executive vice president of daytime programming, Marlene Dann, attributes largely to interest in the Jackson case.

But even that does not rival the public fascination with the Scott Peterson trial, said Dann, when Court TV got a record number of viewers.

"In the Peterson trial, the people involved could be your next-door neighbors," she said. "With Jackson, while people are interested because he's such a high-profile celebrity, he is unique. People can't relate to him in the same way."

The case continues to be a staple on local talk radio, which has never met a celebrity trial it could not embrace.

"We love them. We can't get enough of them," said John Kobylt, co-host of KFI-AM's afternoon "John & Ken Show."
Still, said Kobylt, even his listeners are somewhat put off by the case.
"I think people get more intense about murder cases. Pedophilia, less so. Obviously, victims aren't killed, they're damaged."


[...] Bill Handel, whose weekday show on KFI attracts high ratings, said his listeners haven't found the Jackson trial as compelling as previous high-profile cases.

"It's a big story but people are not as invested in this as they were with Peterson. People related with [Peterson's slain wife] Laci more."

Bernard Pendergrass, assistant program director at KABC-AM (790), said the trial continues to be a staple among the talk station's hosts.

"You have a larger-than-life star, Michael Jackson, No. 1. You're dealing with an icon who is now accused of molesting children. Not only that, the bizarre details you hear about almost every other day have us glued. It's almost irresistible."

KABC host Al Rantel said he focuses on the trial at least once a week, but

"the public has been sort of inoculated for the Jackson trial." The topic matter "sort of yucks a lot of people out."

Indeed, CNN's Klein said he is becoming known among his staff for railing against coverage of the trial during the network's morning editorial meetings.

"It's been a project to wean our producers from a sense they must cover every twitch of the story in prime time," he said. "The television news business has become so debased in the past couple of decades that producers who ought to know better find themselves covering stories they don't like at all and don't stop to ask, 'If I don't like it, what makes me think the viewers would like it?' I'm trying to get them to ask that question."

Times staff writer Matea Gold and freelance writer Steve Carney contributed to this report.

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