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Was Michael Jackson’s Death Murder? The Art of Reporting Reports

Michael Jackson, will they let him rest?
Michael Jackson, will they let him rest?

If you want to come out and pose a question, in article form, about whether or not the most famous person to die in strange circumstances since Elvis Presley might have been murdered, you first need someone to make that claim, which then allows a report of the first report. Luckily, we have TMZ.

When Michael Jackson’s death was first announced, his family came out soon after with some quite misguided and very public accusations of foul play aimed at Jackson’s mysterious entourage of doctors and yes-men.

Now, it would seem, we in the media are able to make our own claims that Jackson was murdered, because TMZ are reporting that ‘sources’ within Los Angeles police have told them the death is being investigated.

Those sources would not need to be particularly sharp practitioners to know that a high profile death in strange circumstances such as Jackson’s was always going to be investigated in this way: naturally, until proved otherwise, there is always a chance that the killing was unlawful.

However, rather than wait for toxicology reports, as the police must, instead we must rely on ‘reports’ upon which to hook our conspiracy theories.

The report from shadowy ‘sources’, for instance, that police have concluded Michael Jackson’s death was the result of the anaesthetic, Propofol, would seem to be a little premature to base a whole article around as TMZ themselves have.

But let that not stop us from making another, ever-so-slightly larger leap of faith and saying, as the Guardian have:

The police investigation appears to indicate that prosecutors may conclude that a doctor who knew the dangers of administering Propofol should face a second degree murder or manslaughter charge.

The above statement is mastery in the art of reporting reports which I like to call “media whispers” with a metaphorical cap-doff to the original root of the skill: the child’s game Chinese Whispers where, as a message is repeated through multiple participants, it’s original grain becomes so distorted as to be a nonsense by the time it reaches the final player.

The same is true of media whispers, though the rules are slightly different: instead of trying to repeat the message verbatim, one must first say “he says” (while pointing at the boy or girl before) and then try to garnish the story with a little bit more each time. Making sure, of course, that any conclusions are preceded with words which mean things like “appears to indicate” so those hearing the message are assured that the ultimate source – and therefore blame for any glaring inaccuracy which may later become apparent – was he who made the initial “whisper”.

Such reporting will not help assuage any lingering doubt over Jackson’s death. Such reports will not prove either way whether or not Michael Jackson was murdered; died of natural causes; or whether his death was the result of a string of factors which ultimately resulted in an accidental death.

What will go a long way to helping detectives and coroners reach this decision is knowing precisely what, if any, potentially death causing drugs were in Michael Jackson’s system at the time his heart stopped beating.

This will only be known when the toxicology report is complete. Interestingly, and sensibly, this is the line being pressed by the Los Angeles police.

Until that report and its conclusions are forthcoming, however, we can always just play media whispers and simply report what TMZ postulates.

About Robin Scott

Robin Scott
Robin Scott is co-founder and publisher of The Global Herald.

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