This Saturday marks one month since the death of Michael Jackson. Thirty days is more than enough time for it to become clear: Some people and groups came through the experience in ways more positive than not, some did the opposite. While the list will surely morph and multiply, here’s a look at some of the winners and losers.
Michael Jackson’s image as a father and performer
Jackson’s parenting skills have been called into question plenty — dangling an infant off a balcony and then appearing on camera spastically attempting to bottle feed the same baby, as Jackson did in Martin Bashir’s documentary “Living With Michael Jackson,” will have that effect. However, when Jackson’s daughter, Paris, took to the stage at the July 8 memorial, all of that was forgotten. Her brief, yet poignant goodbye to her dad puts a period at the end of at least one sentence: Michael Jackson was a good dad.
As for Jackson’s image as a performer — that’s the one part of his legacy that will never tarnish. The covers of the magazines that paid tribute to him by and large used performance images, and after his death, his songs were downloaded in record numbers. Ask around: The majority of Jackson fans will say a song, a concert, a video is what resonates most.
In the press: TMZ, the Internet
Prior to the death, Radar Online was nipping at TMZ’s heels, and the site hadn’t broken much news of significance in some time. TMZ’s exclusive changed everything. More broadly, as Twitter and Facebook jammed and sites such as this one saw record traffic numbers, Jackson’s death proved that the Internet is how we get our breaking news.
Hangers on and their sudden-onset relevancy: Thanks to their sudden prominence on a global stage, the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson now have the standing to promote their own social agendas on a larger scale — and they’re doing as much. Then there are some friends who’d been existing on the fringes of Jackson’s life, if not off the radar entirely. One prime example: Brian Oxman, who purported to be a family spokesperson the day of his death (and wasn’t), got tremendous air time — to what end, that remains to be seen.
MJ’s image in every way but fatherhood and performing
Now that some time has passed since the period of abject adoration surrounding the memorial, Jackson’s bizarre past behaviors, transgressions, and lawsuits stand alone not just as a chapter in his life, but as an entirely separate volume. Critics who said the public had wrongly dismissed these aspects of his life need not worry that they’ve been forgotten.
Joe Jackson, The Jackson 4, LaToya
The Jackson family probably stood united for the final time onstage at the Staples Center in Los Angeles the day of Michael’s memorial. Among the lines that can be drawn between family members since then is an indelible one between those Jacksons who’ve sought to profit from Michael’s death, and those who have not. Within hours of his son's death on June 25, Joe Jackson was promoting his record label; within days, the remaining members of the Jackson 5 were planning performances; within weeks, LaToya penned a tribute song to Michael, which began streaming ahead of its official July 28 release. I, for one, have learned many things this month, among them: Those closest to Jackson are the ones who, since his death, have remained the quietest.
In the press: TMZ, The AP, the British press
It’s an understatement to say the story has been difficult to report, what with so many profiteers, false information and entities involved in Jackson’s death and ensuing investigations. However: After breaking the death, TMZ erred on the side of sensationalism time and again. The Associated Press made many errors in what can only be described as a chase to address the precedent TMZ had set. And then there’s the British press. Two shining examples of outright journalistic irresponsibility: They perpetrated the unctuous claim that son Prince thought Jackson was only “clowning” and then witnessed his death; then they claimed that former nanny Grace Rwaramba gave an interview that revealed she had to pump Jackson’s stomach “many times,” his drug use was so bad — only Rwaramba never gave such an interview, according to statements she issued right after publication.
Jackson’s life and death will rank among the landmark pop culture stories of our time. The bad news is so much of it has been retracted, redacted and wrong. The good news is there’s still more to be written. Control over the news-gathering process has been difficult across the board. What should be less difficult, now that the players and the mistakes are clear, is writing the rest of the story with some control, so that the final chapters are recorded not just efficiently, but are also right.
Courtney Hazlett delivers the Scoop Monday through Friday on msnbc.com. Follow Scoop on Twitter: @ courtneyatmsnbc.