Pop Culture

OK! hits a new low with Jackson cover

All of the weekly magazines that choose to commemorate Michael Jackson on their covers will be on stands one week after the “King of Pop’s” sudden death.

Look at them collectively, and you’ll find yourself in a gruesome game of “one of these things is not like the other.”

Time Magazine rushed to press to put an elegant tribute out; Newsweek eloquently navigated the decision to send a Jackson cover to newsstands, and its planned book cover to subscribers; and People magazine did its usual pitch-perfect memorial.

And then there is OK! magazine and the reprehensible decision to pay a reported $500,000 for the “last” picture of Jackson, which shows him lying on a stretcher, possibly already dead.

OK!’s spokesperson Brian Strong says, “The cover represents an event in the history of an extremely entertaining and controversial figure and is sure to provoke some emotion and questions from readers and fans about the circumstances. The news often does.”

Provoke emotion and questions, indeed. I am angry that a) this photo exists and b) this magazine had the audacity to run it. As for questions, here’s one: How can this shameless bid for publicity (which is obviously working) be in any way justifiable?

As for the argument that the cover represents “an event in history,” yes, it does, but that’s not good enough. Every day, news organizations around the world make decisions about decency, respect and the best way to tell a story. It’s a responsibility that bears incredible weight, regardless of the perceived “weightiness” of the subject matter. Just because you have a photo — or have the dollars to throw at acquiring it — doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to run it.

The challenges in covering Jackson’s life and death become more textured by the day. But in my opinion, the question of running this photo at all, to say nothing of on the cover, was among the easiest. You just don’t do it.

The magazine answered the question as to why they ran the photo, but I have one more query before I put the subject to rest and stop giving OK! publicity for this: If the man on the stretcher was your son, brother, father or friend, would you have done the same thing?

Courtney Hazlett delivers the Scoop Monday through Friday on msnbc.com. Follow Scoop on Twitter: @ courtneyatmsnbc.

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