Turning our gaze toward our own navels and picking the lint out of our media belly buttons, we pose this multiple-choicer:
Coverage of Michael Jackson's death was A) not enough. B) exactly enough. C) Enough already!
Introspection inevitably follows when we rev up for a spectacular story and drive 100 mph off a cliff. We scold ourselves -- bad media! bad! -- and quasi-repent, then gun it to 150 off the next cliff.
But during the remarkable Thursday of Death -- Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and the report from the night Danny Gans died -- a sliver of sanity peeked through.
First, here's M.J. by the clock: Celeb site TMZ decked the mainstreamers, announcing the 2:26 p.m. death at 2:44, followed by the Los Angeles Times at 2:51, as later recapped by the Times. Curiously, TMZ's original post was time-stamped six minutes before Jackson died.
Locally, Channel 8 weighed in at 3:09, Channel 13 at 3:22 and Channel 3 at 3:24. Double curiously, Channel 5 -- TMZ's Vegas affiliate -- waited until The Associated Press confirmed at 3:10 before announcing at 3:12.
"I didn't want to go until we had a second source that wasn't citing TMZ," says news director Adam Bradshaw. "If TMZ was right, it's a huge feather in their cap. Wrong, and they'd be for sale today."
Good call, Bradshaw.
Even better? Channels 3, 5 and 13 aired only brief cut-ins, gathering resources until their afternoon newscasts dove into the Jackson action.
Only Channel 8 -- which already programs an excessive 90-minute news block from 4 to 5:30 -- couldn't hold it in, interrupting "Ellen" for extended coverage around 3:30. "He's made a big impression here on his previous visits," says news director Ron Comings, "so we felt he was an important figure for the community."
Admirably assembled with impressive speed, coverage was anchored by Gary Waddell and Paula Francis, with Melissa Duran doing Strip interviews and Jonathan Humbert in-studio.
But Bradshaw nails the argument against local media me-too-ism: "So many people go to CNN or Fox News for when a story like this breaks. Those who go to the locals don't necessarily want the massive team coverage we all wind up doing."
Viewers, meet sanity.
That blissful sanctuary from 3:30 to 4 (and to 5 p.m. on Channel 5), even with Jackson's death confirmed, felt like a throwback to when media comprehended the concept of "proportion" over celebrity news, no matter how sudden and shocking.
Even if owing only to logistics and timing -- had Jackson died at 1 p.m., they all might've cannonballed into the pool -- Jackson was briefly a headline (albeit a big one) waiting patiently for a story, rather than a monster sucking the oxygen out of every station.
With social/online media -- the "Twitterverse," bloggers, TMZ and its wannabes -- piling onto mainstream media to beat our brain cells senseless, the pre-newscast "People's Court," "Divorce Court" "Judge Joe Brown" and "Dr. Phil" were an oasis in the midst of an obsession.
Now -- with due respect to the sadness of losing an icon -- we return you to MJTV.
Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0256.