Media outlets react, celebrities pay tribute
Michael Jackson’s death dominated news around the world as reports grappled with balancing respect for his groundbreaking music career with the bizarre details of his personal life — especially in the last decade of his life.
Friday’s coverage on international news websites went beyond simple obits and, like U.S. coverage, focused on speculation of cause of death, what happens to his estate, his cultural impact, fan reactions and the fallout from the 50 sold-out London concerts, now cancelled.
Perhaps the biggest media coverage outside the U.S. comes from the U.K., where Jackson was poised to perform at London’s O2 Arena.
On Thursday night, Elton John paid tribute to Jackson during his annual White Tie and Tiara ball, according to a report on the Daily Mail website, where many of the stars in attendance, including Justin Timberlake, appeared to be in shock and upset over the news.
The news saturated the tabloids’ sites, and the Mirror even posted an audio file of the 911 call placed from Jackson’s rented mansion, while the broadsheets covered Jackson’s death with packages of stories, blogs and pictures, albeit with a harder-news spin.
Meanwhile, at the annual Glastonbury music fest, fans and musicians, such as Pharrell Williams, paid tribute to the late singer.
In Germany, Jackson’s death dominated television news late Thursday night and Friday morning on all major channels and leading news websites.
Jackson had enjoyed huge popularity there throughout the 1980s and ’90s, and in 1995 he appeared on the hit German entertainment show “Wetten dass,” performing “Earth Song” (his only No. 1 hit single in Germany) and providing the show with its highest ratings of the decade.
Jackson’s popularity in Germany had waned in recent years as his increasingly bizarre behavior and curious physical appearance generated more news than his fading music career. Indeed, one of the singer’s most infamous acts occurred in Berlin in 2002, when Jackson shocked the world by dangling his nine-month-old baby, Prince Michael II, from his fourth story hotel balcony to give fans a glimpse of the child.
The intense news coverage of Jackson’s death even overshadowed German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s meeting with Barack Obama at the White House on Friday — her first visit to the U.S. since Obama took office.
Although the singer’s death Thursday afternoon was reported too late for most major newspapers here to carry on Friday, the Berliner Zeitung had a front-page article reporting that Jackson had been rushed to the hospital after apparently suffering cardiac arrest.
The news dominated Spiegel Online, with Friday’s headline reading: “The Monstrous Genius.”
Reporting from New York, Spiegel Online’s Marc Pitzke wrote, “He was the biggest pop sensation of the past decades — and in the end a freak, the saddest figure in showbiz.”
The news flooded French newspapers’ websites, radio stations and TV newscasts.
New Gallic culture minister, Frederic Mitterrand, paid homage to Jackson, declaring, “We all have a little bit of Michael Jackson within us, it’s fascinating.”
Le Parisian and Le Figaro dedicated much of their front pages to Jackson, with stories attributing his death to a heart attack and highlighting his accomplishments, glossing over his legal troubles and other unpleasant aspects of the singer’s life. The death also lead TV newscasts, which showed thousands of fans taking to the streets of Paris and other major cities throughout the country to pay homage to Jackson.
While Gauls turned out for spontaneous outdoors gatherings, as is happening in the U.S., in Spain there was little of the sadness or shock that was exhibited after the death of Princess Diana or a sense of the end of an era that was prompted by the death of John Lennon.
Still, Jackson died with honors in the Spanish media, retaining his royal moniker, the King of Pop.
“The ‘king’ of pop is dead,” proclaimed newspaper El Mundo in its lead Friday article. Rival newsie “El Pais” used the same headline for its second lead.
Broadcaster Telecinco ended its early afternoon newscast with a musicvid montage of the greatest hits of a man again described as “The King of Pop.”
Print coverage glossed over the shadows and neuroses of Jackson’s life — “The tragedy of the last Peter Pan,” El Mundo’s obit read — as much as his musical achievements. “Suspicion will always surround his figure. His musical legacy, however, can never be taken away,” the obit stated.
In Oz, Jackson’s death received blanket coverage in the media but, initially at least, there were no public gatherings to celebrate the life of the artist who toured here in 1987 and 1996, during which time he married his second wife Debbie Rowe at the Sheraton Hotel in Sydney.
News broke Friday in the last hour of morning television breakfast shows, then dominated news channels and news bulletins on the free-to-air networks during the day.
The Nine Network dedicated the first 23 minutes of its 6 p.m. news bulletin to Jackson, pushing out the half-hour show to 50 minutes, but coverage tended to focus more on his unusual personal life than his achievements in music and dance.
Bulletins crossed live to Los Angeles and to a Sydney Virgin Megastore where all Michael Jackson CDs were said to have sold out by midday. Local commentators observed Jackson had been the modern king of pop despite his poor public image.
Talk radio was dominated by discussion of Jackson with about half the callers deriding his lifestyle on account of the allegations of child molestation while others spoke appreciatively of his work.
The Nine Network will air a two-hour special, “Michael Jackson King of Pop,” Saturday night.
The news of Jackson’s death dominated Russian newspapers, radio and television outlets Friday.
Popular tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets repeated allegations made in British newspaper The Sun that Jackson’s heart attack was precipitated by an overdose of a powerful painkiller.
The more sober state news agency RIA Novosti questioned, wrongly as it turned out, whether an autopsy would be allowed on Jackson — who had reportedly converted to Islam late last year.
Muslim cleric, Damir Gizatullin, vice president of the Russian Council of Muftis, told RIA Novosti that autopsies were forbidden on Muslims and, according to Islamic belief, Jackson should be buried within 24 hours of his death.
Public sentiment could be gauged by the numbers of Russian bloggers posting about their reaction to Jackson’s passing.
By midday popular Internet portal Yandex had recorded 1,095 blogs about Jackson on its branded blogs. The blogs were recording so much traffic that the site crashed at one point during the day.
In Italy, as websites and newspaper headlines filled with news of Jackson’s death, even those who had tangled with the superstar in the past were quick to pay him fulsome tribute.
Albano “Al Bano” Carrisi, probably Italy’s biggest recording artist, with 170 million albums sold around the world, told a Milan court in 1992 that Jackson had plagiarized one of his songs — Jackson was cleared.
“I always had the greatest respect for him as a musician,” Al Bano said Friday. “As a man, though, he was possessed of an extraordinary fragility. He was an extraordinary artist: innovative, strong, popular, and a performer of great class. And boy, could he dance!”
Screen legend Sophia Loren paid tribute, saying, “I’m devastated. There’ll never be another Michael Jackson. The world has lost an icon. With his songs he has given the world a great treasure.”
In Asia, Jackson was one of the few foreign pop stars to successfully penetrate the Japanese market and had gained several generations of fans by the time of his death.
Soon after his death was announced, major record retailers in Japan, including Tower Records and HMV, set up “Michael Jackson tribute corners” in their stores.
By noon on Friday, Sony Music had received orders for 150,000 CDs — and more are sure to come. Such was his stardom in the country that Jackson’s hits immediately soared to the top of Japanese charts, occupying the first 10 slots in the singles chart and the top four slots in the album chart.
Prime Minister Taro Aso commented on Jackson’s passing, saying that he was “a singer with a definite presence.” Aso reminisced that he first became aware of Jackson as a “child tap dancer” with the Jackson 5 when he was studying in the U.S.
“For my generation it was Elvis Presley and then the Beatles,” he said. “But for the generation after, the big superstar was Michael Jackson.”
— Ed Meza, John Hopewell, Nick Holdsworth, Michael Day, Michaela Boland, Elsa Keslassy and Mark Schilling contributed to this report