The onslaught of rumors, reports, and sometimes-true-sometimes-not stories about Michael Jackson has given a boost to new media sites like TMZ—which ran more than 150 Jackson stories in the week after his death—while mainstream press finds itself painstakingly sifting through stories to find the truth. “This is random people throwing things up against the wall to see what sticks,” Campbell Brown tells Broadcasting & Cable. “There’s all kinds of misinformation out there."
Jackson’s death sparked big numbers for YouTube, iTunes, and TMZ. Even so, not all advertisers will be persuaded to give the infamous gossip site their business, though younger brands likely will bend, says one exec. Meanwhile, as networks skate the line between enough coverage and too much, many are relying on connections with trustworthy Jackson sources—ABC employs Martin Bashir; CBS has hired biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli—and avoiding the wannabes “coming out of the woodwork,” says one producer.