It was fascinating to watch the Michael Jackson rumours hit Twitter late last night (BST) and the mixed reaction to the initial TMZ.com report. An AOL/Telepictures Productions entertainment news site and renowned for having its finger on the pulse, but not quite big or well-known enough to risk the re-tweet or the MSM endorsement? Should we trust it, should we not? The links and telling tweets are reproduced here:
TMZ.com breaks news of the death first:
“We’ve just learned Michael Jackson has died. He was 50.”
Many journalists were playing it safe, even with their own personal tweets. Even the ‘semi-journalists’:
View mdlong24’s tweet
Then… a few comments about the weird news culture we live in. Compare the way you heard about Princess Diana to this, for example. This from Meg Pickard, the Guardian’s head of social media development:
View megpickard’s tweet
But were people being unduly cautious? Ashley Norris – of Shiny Media fame – offered this:
View shinyashley’s tweet
The Sun (by an unnamed ‘online reporter but it has now been updated and by-lined) and the Metro (by a by-lined reporter but the link is now dead) – and others too no doubt – tentatively go with ‘reportedly dead.’ And actually attributed TMZ. Then, phew, a mainstream media source finally gives us likely sources to cling onto. The LA Times.
Around 23.35 BST (22.35 GMT):The BBC goes for it on TV. In its special breaking television news report on BBC1 after BBC Question Time, and before This Week, they say that Jackson is reported to be dead: citing the LA Times as the main source, then TMZ.com, and then add that the Associated Press is also reporting the death.
Now everyone’s sure that he is dead. The Guardian gets this wonderfully comprehensive tribute article up very quickly (23.26 BST).
TMZ were the winners of the night with publicity all round. Check out the quote from Alan Citron, founding manager for TMZ but who now works for Buzz Media in an email to Beet TV last night:
“TMZ has drifted into a lot of juvenile satire lately, but Harvey’s [Levin, managing editor of TMZ] still the best when it comes to serious celebrity news reporting. It’s highly likely that TMZ will own this story.”
This lovely tweet from @PJButta says it all:
View PJButta’s tweet
More views on TMZ and trust on Twitter.
As for the print? According to Paul McNally,
View paulmcnally’s tweet
One more link-to-print here: the Guardian’s newspaper front page slideshow (presumably a later edition for the Sun).
What have we left out? Leave links and comments below, if you’ve got anything to add.