TV News In '93: Entertainment, Reality Collided - Dimond (Dec 26 1993)


Staff member
TV News In '93: Entertainment, Reality Collided
The Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City, Utah
Dec 26, 1993. pg. E.9


After Joey Buttafuoco claimed he never slept with Amy Fisher, his loose tongue during a television interview brings him serious trouble, indirectly leading to a guilty plea that sent him to prison for statutory rape.

Let's see, now, the interview was on "A Current Affair." No, no, it was NBC's "Today." Or was it "Arsenio"? ABC's "Nightline"? If not Ted Koppel, maybe Dan Rather? Larry King? Surely not Barbara Walters.

Actually, that wonderful lug Joey was in the company of Phil Donahue when, in effect, he blabbed himself into a jail term in front of millions of TV viewers.

Pardon the confusion, but 1993 had a way of muddling things.

It was a year that magnified the blurring of lines that traditionally had separated components of television. Who was on first? You couldn't blame viewers for being disoriented, for the "trash" news media and the "legitimate" news media increasingly covered the same tabloid-style stories, rendering the labels almost meaningless.

Those media brats, the tabloid-talk and magazine series, were doing what they always did. But by falling in behind them in this tabloid parade, the so-called respectable media were not only squandering themselves on relative minutiae but also diverting the public's eye from the truly significant issues of the day.

Who topped the shish kebab of personalities that attracted attention from so many elements of the media?

Wasn't it the celebrated Diane Sawyer who devoted an hour in mid-December to breathlessly reprising the trials of Lyle and Erik Menendez -- accused of premeditated murder of their parents -- on ABC? And wasn't it the Fox magazine show "Front Page" that added its own Menendez hour a few days later?

Even more prominent in the media eye was alleged Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, whose press-mobbed maiden court appearance in August became the bra shot seen around the world. With four camera crews at her arraignment, CNN must have been expecting Fleiss to burn her bra. A hot ticket, indeed. Yet it wasn't Heidi, Erik, Lyle or Joey who headed the media spike in 1993. It was -- there should be absolutely no suspense here -- Michael Jackson.

A seminal moment in 1993's incestuous media process came in August when "CBS This Morning" co-host Paula Zahn conducted an interview about those widely reported sexual-abuse allegations that a 13-year-old boy had made against Jackson.

The person she interviewed was Diane Dimond.

Diane Dimond of the syndicated "Hard Copy."

"Hard Copy" the notorious tabloid series.

Zahn was respectful, if not reverential. Had Dimond heard of other boys being involved? Had she heard of the existence of incriminating photos? CBS News had joined the Enquiring Minds wanting to know. "Hard Copy" was working on those angles, Dimond disclosed.

CBS News and the extraterrestrial "Hard Copy" merging on coverage of Michael Jackson? It was an exotic hybrid that probably sent Edward R. Murrow spinning in his grave.

Whether Jackson is guilty or innocent of sexual molestation is not the point. How the media have covered his story is.

Anyone with a damning tale to tell about him, even if unsubstantiated, has been assured of air time somewhere. Heading the group was a man who insisted he had been Jackson's "friend." Negative statements made about Jackson by his estranged sister LaToya Jackson continued to get wide play even after she admitted on "Today" that she could not substantiate her innuendo about her brother molesting boys.

A former Jackson housekeeper and four of his former security guards made damaging statements to "Hard Copy" in interviews that the tabloid program paid for. Paying for interviews is odious enough, a sure way to encourage interviewees to do the bidding of the payer and give a performance. Omitting mention of that payment compounds the sin. And that is what several stations did in excerpting the "Hard Copy" remarks of some of Jackson's former employees.

There was one positive side to the Michael Jackson coverage in 1993. At least no one implied that he was associated with Heidi Fleiss. Or that he was Heidi Fleiss.

But "Hard Copy" may be working on it.

Copyright Salt Lake Tribune Dec 26, 1993
Source: Indy researcher 'TSColdMan' at MJJF