I received only a few e-mails commenting on our Michael Jackson coverage, and all of them complimented the stellar Page 1A layout Friday morning by News Editor Brent Conklin.
Except this one last night:
You’ve got to be kidding me---Michael Jackson on the front page of The Herald for 2 days in a row? WHY? Oh, excuse me, I forgot that sensationalism sells newspapers, and you must get sales numbers up for those stockholder reports! Front page was not enough, more coverage of his life and death filled other pages; one headline stated stores were selling out of his music and memorabilia. What have we come to as a society? Sad……..
The dichotomy of our readers is part of what makes the newspaper business challenging. We design the front page to provide current readers a window into the day's best stories -- but even more so, we try to entice a potential reader to buy a copy from the news rack. That challenge has become even more daunting with the multitude of instant-information choices.
I admit, I wasn't much of a Michael Jackson fan, either, though I've been surprised at how many of his songs are stuck in my head. And I've been fascinated at the intense focus on his career and life since news broke on his death.
And the headlines? Long before there were stockholders, people craved news about their heroes. One reporter noted in a health story Friday:
The public's fascination with celebrities "may seem new because we are such a media-immersed society, but it's really not," said Stuart Fischoff, senior editor at the Journal of Media Psychology and emeritus professor of media psychology at California State University, Los Angeles.
When the composers Frederic Chopin and Franz Liszt performed in the 19th century, women threw their underwear at them. And 80 years after the death of silent-film star Rudolph Valentino, fans continue to visit his grave, Fischoff noted.