OK! Magazine is running a photo on their cover this week that features a close up of Michael Jackson’s face as he lay already dead or dying on a stretcher in the ambulance. The top of the cover reads “The last photos” and there’s large font across the front that says “Michael’s tragic death – why he didn’t have to die.”
He is intubated in this photo, which means there’s a tube placed in his throat to assist breathing, although on OK!’scover they have an inset over that part of the picture so you can only see the brace around his neck.
Many outlets have already run this photo, including Entertainment Tonight, which first posted it on its website and in a broadcast, and CNN, which showed it on Larry King Live. We mentioned this photo in an earlier story about Entertainment Tonight publishing it and asked “Would you want a photo of your deceased loved one being released to the public?”
Courtney Hazlett at MSNBC’s The Scoop agrees that it’s tasteless to publish that photo of Jackson, and she has some harsh words for OK!, which reportedly paid $500,000 for the rights to that photo:
And then there is OK! magazine and the reprehensible decision to pay a reported $500,000 for the “last” picture of Jackson, which shows him lying on a stretcher, possibly already dead.
OK!’s spokesperson Brian Strong says, “The cover represents an event in the history of an extremely entertaining and controversial figure and is sure to provoke some emotion and questions from readers and fans about the circumstances. The news often does.”
Provoke emotion and questions, indeed. I am angry that a) this photo exists and b) this magazine had the audacity to run it. As for questions, here’s one: How can this shameless bid for publicity (which is obviously working) be in any way justifiable?
As for the argument that the cover represents “an event in history,” yes, it does, but that’s not good enough. Every day, news organizations around the world make decisions about decency, respect and the best way to tell a story. It’s a responsibility that bears incredible weight, regardless of the perceived “weightiness” of the subject matter. Just because you have a photo — or have the dollars to throw at acquiring it — doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to run it.
The challenges in covering Jackson’s life and death become more textured by the day. But in my opinion, the question of running this photo at all, to say nothing of on the cover, was among the easiest. You just don’t do it.
The magazine answered the question as to why they ran the photo, but I have one more query before I put the subject to rest and stop giving OK! publicity for this: If the man on the stretcher was your son, brother, father or friend, would you have done the same thing?
The thing that bothers me about this is that it’s on the magazine’s cover, not just inside, and that it will confront people at the checkout counter whether they want to see the picture or not. It’s not fair to Jackson’s family or friends that this photo is being released. There’s also the issue of the photo of a dead or dying guy being published on the front of a magazine where kids can see it. I know my son is at the age when he’s asking about death, and reader CandyKay mentioned that she finds violent and death-related imagery more damaging to her child than an occasional nude photo. It’s just a poor decision by OK! all around.
OK! recently went through a major staff overhaul and laid off a bunch of people, including their editor, in May. They’ve been putting younger celebrities on the cover and are trying to be more lifestyle-focused. They had consultants take over in May and if you read some of the asinine e-mails they sent to employees, you can tell that they’re being run by salespeople, not journalists and editors. The new spokesperson Brian Strong talks like an arrogant marketing guy with little basis in reality, as evident in this statement he gave about the change to Cover Awards:
“The aim is to add individuals to the OK! team that strengthen Hollywood access and add a new perspective to the expanded offerings, emphasizing OK!’s enhanced sensibility and style. Here and in editions across the world, Northern & Shell is committed to producing premium magazines, 22 globally, that celebrate exclusive celebrity access and lifestyle content at the root of the OK! brand,” explains Strong.
[From Cover Awards]
Way to celebrate celebrity lifestyle, OK! – by publishing a photo on your cover of a dead guy.
Michael Jackson is shown in 1993 with his sister, Janet, and with Elizabeth Taylor and with Eddie Murphy in 1989. Credit: PRPhotos.com