Media coverage mourning Michael Jackson’s death

Since Michael Jackson’s death on Thursday 25 June, the papers have gone into overdrive with stories ranging from his beginnings as a child star, to his last days rehearsing for the 50 concerts scheduled for London’s O2 Arena. PRmoment asked Echo Sonar to monitor four leading papers’ online coverage of the star from 25 June until the day after his memorial on 7 July, and found that guardian.co.uk had 39 per cent of the stories, whilst thesun.co.uk had just 13 per cent. The four papers researched were The Guardian, The Sun, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mirror.

 

Research provided by Echo Sonar

The papers were packed with stories about Jackson immediately after his death on 26 June, and although coverage dipped, the papers were still finding new things to write, with another slight news peak after the 7 July memorial. On 8 July, all four papers had stories about Michael Jackson on their home pages. The Guardian, Mirror and Telegraph all led with how Michael Jackson’s daughter Paris broke down at her father’s memorial, while the Sun showed his death certificate on its front page.

The problem for many PR people since the star’s death is how it has made it difficult to get other stories into the major press. Melanie Seasons, media strategist for online PR agency onlinefire says that the Jackson news, “overshadowed pretty much any story, PR or otherwise, that was sold in for about five days after his death.” Kay Oliver from media training company Hawkeye Media agrees that Jackson’s death provided some businesses with the so-called “good day to bury bad news” opportunity. She also feels that the deaths of many other eminent people who have died recently have been largely ignored. She adds: “even Farrah Fawcett’s demise on the same day got knocked off the front page. Six people die in a block of poorly constructed flats in Camberwell, South London... children screaming for help as the effects of smoke inhalation kill them. Front page news one day, a few lines of copy the next while the Jackson bandwagon rolls on.”

Research provided by Echo Sonar

Each newspaper’s style has obviously influenced the tone of individual stories. As onlinefire’s Seasons says about coverage on the day after his death: “The Telegraph went for the classic approach with a nice picture of him during the Thriller days while The Sun took his latter more crazy days with the headline ‘Jacko is dead‘.”

As well as being all over the papers, online news about Jackson’s death, has according to Seasons, “plagued the Internet.“ She adds: “We cannot discount the speed of how online news spreads and the impact it has amongst the general public.” Speaking about the tone of the stories she has seen, Seasons believes that at first this was rather sarcastic, but later this improved. She says, “Jackson’s legacy seems to be about his music and melancholy, rather than the negative allegations he was subjected to over the years.”

All in all, the stories have ranged from extolling Jackson‘s early talent to bemoaning his later downfall. As Anton Rush, owner of PR agency Zebra PR sums up, the coverage has been: "On one level excellent and on the other little more than lowest common denominator ambulance-chasing copy." 

Methodology

PRmoment asked Echo Sonar to analyse UK online media coverage of Michael Jackson from four leading national papers, The Guardian, The Daily Mirror, The Daily Telegraph and The Sun. The research period was from 25 June to 8 July. Metrics included share of voice, volume trend and tonality.