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About Last Night (re: Michael Jackson's death)

At last, then, it seems safe to confirm the death of Michael Jackson at the age of 50. Now the mania is over, we can take a look at the development of the story and how different parts of the media reacted to what were at the time mere allegations.

Sorry, that sounds incredibly boring. I'll keep it simple, then, and I'll keep it brief. Still, if you're expecting Jacko-related jokes ("His heart couldn't beat it any more" etc.), then you're better off trying somewhere else: I was bored of them after minutes, and we've still months of them to come. Joy.

News of MJ's passing first came from TMZ, a celebrity gossip site following a tip-off that paramedics had visited the singer's home. All that was known at that point was that he had gone into cardiac arrest (not the same as a heart attack, by the way), so the entertainment website responsibly responded by telling the whole world HE'S DEAD, HE'S DEAD OH MY GOD HE'S DEAD.

Sky News followed. Of course it bloody did: Sky News' long-standing motto, which it makes no attempt to deny, is 'never wrong for long'.

Which is why I didn't trust it.

Myself, I was waiting for confirmation from BBC News - a predictable but much more reliable outlet - who steadfastly led with nothing more hyperbolic than 'Michael Jackson taken to hospital'. For this, they deserve praise, which should also be lavished upon them for keeping constant coverage, including my hero and one-time pee buddy (don't ask) Lizo Mzimba. BBC Online's headline then graduated onto calling him 'gravely ill' and then the admittedly ill-advised 'Michael Jackson 'dead'' - ill-advised because 'these' just make it sound 'sarcastic' - before finally confirming the story some hours after it first broke.

So given that the story of Jackson's death was true, was the BBC just slow, perhaps even irresponsibly slow, to report it? No. It was waiting for reliable confirmation from official sources, not an entertainment website. As it should do. Take a note, Sky News.

Anyway, once TMZ had broken the 'story' (understand, BBC? 'These' mean 'sarcasm'), it was within minutes all over the internet, as people such as myself sought to learn the truth of the news from more people like myself. That is, people didn't know whether Jackson was alive or dead, so had to ask other people who didn't know either. This led to a hive of activity, soon becoming a hive of inactivity as the internet buckled under the weight of worldwide confusion. Briefly, Google died, Twitter died and even TMZ, who started the whole thing, died. Nice work bringing that on yourself, guys.

Will the interwebs be able to withstand another assault on their blogotubes? I don't think we'll ever know.

I can't think of many stories that would have such an effect worldwide - people talk about the death of the Queen and the like causing a global stir, but due to the decline in the British Empire and the release of best-selling album ever Thriller, she hasn't touched as many people in as many countries as Michael Jackson. Think of that what you will.

But it does show that social networking sites are now the best news aggregators you can hope for. Find a story, pass it on. Admittedly you have to wade through the shit (OMG HES DED!!!!!!!!!!!!!11), but Twitter, with its #hashtags and trending topics, is actually quite a good news source.

Anyway, now it's all over and his death has been confirmed, what have we learned? Well... nothing, really. The story was right. So TMZ and Sky News were right. Damn. I was hoping this would be a chance for people to realise they can't be trusted.

And Jackson's death itself? Well, with debt, illness and 50 concert dates he was never realistically going to make, the conspiracy theories are flying around almost as quickly as the jokes. But it's my firm belief that he's dead, and we should accept that. Sorry, kids.

Perhaps not.

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About Last Night (re: Michael Jackson's death) + TIME