Press sketches MJ fame and infamy

June 26, 2009 12:00 am

, WASHINGTON, Jun 26 – From financial broadsheets to tabloid gossip sheets, media around the world have scrambled to report Michael Jackson’s death, sketching five decades of fame and infamy.

The usual silos that limit pop coverage to the mass-circulation dailies were cast aside as even the most high-brow papers chronicled a life and works that made an indelible mark on modern popular culture.

In the United States, the usually star-free Wall Street Journal hailed Jackson as "the most gifted pop entertainer of his era."

"He was known as the King of Pop, and in Michael Jackson’s case the title was warranted," the paper eulogized.

In Britain, the Guardian tried to put Jackson’s death in context for its politically-minded readers, describing Jackson as "the Barack Obama of pop music."

"In the 50s there was Elvis. In the 60s there were the Beatles. The 70s and 80s gave us Michael Jackson, the first black artist to become the number one global pop star of his age," the paper wrote.

Elsewhere papers provided local context for the global star’s life.

The Chicago Tribune, printed close to Jackson’s hometown of Gary, Indiana, reminisced about a local kid known as "Mike", "who would sing on street corners and play a stickball version of cricket with his family in front of a humble one-storey home."

In Rio de Janeiro, where the pop star shot the music video "They don’t care about us" in a local slum, O Dia tried to capture the intimacy between Jackson and his fans, a generation of whom grew up with the star.

"Goodbye Michael" its headline stated simply.

But the paper also catalogued one in a series of controversies that seemed to plague Jackson through most of his career.

"Michael Jackson’s time in Rio was a mix of emotion and controversy" the paper said, noting allegations that the producers of his video – shot in the not-so marvellous side of the Ciudade Maravilhosa – paid-off local drug gangs to ensure their safety.

The tabloids, which most fervently tracked Jackson’s career over the years, also noted the singer’s mixed legacy.

The New York Post devoted its first nine pages to the singer’s death.

"Jacko has gone to ‘Neverland’," the paper said in its page two headline, before detailing Jackson’s "freakiness."

The New York Daily News opined that Jackson’s "brilliance as an entertainer was matched only by his eccentricity.

"Some of his musical achievements were overshadowed by behaviour that could charitably be described as unusual: extensive plastic surgery and an obsession with giving himself the childhood he often said he was denied," the paper wrote.

Rolling Stone, a music magazine, was more effusive in its praise.

"Jackson was a towering and constantly enigmatic presence in pop music – a giant on the level of Presley, Sinatra and Dylan. He set an almost impossibly high standard in pop music on numerous levels," the magazine’s website said.


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