Like most people, I didn't learn about Michael Jackson's death yesterday via traditional media outlets. Instead, I heard from a much more reliable source: Westword receptionist Christina Salazar, who was announcing the news to a gaggle of co-workers as I walked toward the front desk. At first, I thought she was joking, but no: She told me she'd already been Facebooked numerous times, and her phone was blowing up with messages about the development.
I then hopped into my car for my 25 minute drive home, searching the radio dial in vain for more information. Finally, KOA announced during a newsbreak that Jackson had reportedly been rushed to UCLA Medical Center and was in a coma -- this last piece of information was probably specious. That was followed by a discussion of Jackson's legacy, with whoever was filling in for Dave Logan trying to sound knowledgeable on the subject, and failing miserably. At one point, he conceded that he was never really that into Jackson's music, but he thought Thriller was a "pretty solid double album." Of course, as the millions of people who bought it know, Thriller was actually a single LP. As for the "pretty solid" part, well, that's just sad....
At home, my sixteen-year-old daughters were watching Wedding Crashers on the DVR, so they hadn't heard the news -- but they knew exactly where to tune: E. Unfortunately, that network, too, was off its game, breaking in briefly with a hurried announcement about the death but then going back to regularly scheduled programming -- specifically a pre-recorded 5 p.m. E News edition focused on the passing of Farrah Fawcett. So we tuned in CNN, where the anchors talked about Jackson in the past tense even as on-screen graphics treated him as if he was still alive. The network didn't officially acknowledge his passing until confirming it with the Los Angeles Coroner's Office well over an hour after he actually died.
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Despite reports to the contrary, old media didn't meet its maker, too, at that moment. But clearly, CNN's got something to learn from Christina Salazar.