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Christmas in July: Couric to Anchor Jackson Memorial

There’s no light at the end of the tunnel yet on Michael Jackson lunacy, as CBS just announced that Katie Couric will be anchoring “The CBS Evening News” from the Staples Center July 6-7 in order to cover the Jackson memorial on the second day. In addition, “The Early Show” will also be originating from the Staples Center, and one suspects the other morning shows — already up to their elbows in Jackson coverage — will dive right in as well.

Of course, the last time there was a major event surrounding Staples it was the post-championship unrest and looting that ensued after the Lakers won the NBA championship in June. I’ve never heard of a post-memorial service riot, but inasmuch as this is Los Angeles, the local authorities should be put on tactical alert. As for those wondering who would go downtown to honor Jackson in the middle of a weekday, with disproportionately high unemployment rates in the L.A. area, the crowd will likely spill out of Staples (the capacity for Lakers games is about 19,000) and into the surrounding plaza. My advice is to stay as far away as possible unless you have to be there or near there.

Meanwhile, Jackson media mania is approaching comical heights, even prompting John Stossel to criticize ABC News — as the website mediabistro.com/tvnewser noted — for bumping one of his “20/20” pieces to make additional room for the Jackson story. As sick as I am of all things Jackson, bumping ABC’s resident swaggering blowhard is the kind of collateral damage a fella could get used to.

This Jackson carpet-bombing illustrates the major difference between print and television. On the latter, the obsession with a tabloid oddity like this can squeeze practically everything else off the air. In print, at least there’s still room for other stories, though admittedly, you’d scarcely notice that from reading the Los Angeles Times — a.k.a. TMZ Spring St. — which has seemingly committed to keeping Jackson on the front page above the fold every day until Sam Zell sprouts a full head of hair.

As for Couric, it’s certainly easy to rationalize devoting so many resources to a story that’s so good for business — witness the Christmas-in-July ratings spike for “Nightline” last week, which averaged more viewers than either of the latenight talkshows — but I suspect we’ll all be looking back on this circus a few months from now with the same level of embarrassment and derision that followed the shark-attack summer of 2001.

Of course, we all know what happened in September of that year. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait for something truly terrible to happen again to deliver another wake-up call.

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