Did OK! step over a line with Michael Jackson dead cover? (photo isn’t here)

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?

[From MSNBC]

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

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17 Responses to “Did OK! step over a line with Michael Jackson dead cover? (photo isn’t here)”

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  1. HEB says:

    I’m really surprised they did it given the horrible reception it got on the internet…

    I feel it was very disrespectful.

  2. fluffyrabbit says:

    I would just like to say thank you for not publishing the photo on celebitchy. This is why I consider this the best gossip blog on the net. You have integrity and honor here.

  3. UrbanRube says:

    When did the still equivalent of snuff films become commonplace in this culture? There has to be a point at which the law steps in and says that certain things are too sick and invasive. However much he may have contributed to screwing up his own life and the lives of others, it’s not right that people can make a half-million dollars from a shot of his dead face. This is sickening. Being famous and having fans that love you does not mean the world has a right to see your dead body.

  4. someone says:

    Joe probably pimped out the picture for a few bucks.

  5. viper says:

    I am glad this time you guys didnt post the photo or made a link to it. I also feel OK! crossed the time. I mean what if his kids or siblings come across that photo…fucked up.

  6. buenavissta says:

    I’m grateful as well that you have not posted this photo here. It is so disrespectful.

  7. Jazz says:

    It’s disgusting that the paparazzi were hanging around the ambulance just to take that photo. I bet they even chased it all the way to the hospital. They all want their money shot. It’s probably why they follow Lindsay Lohan around, waiting for her to od or do something crazy so they can get the money shot and get rich.

  8. Lem says:

    i only made it through the first half of your post. They did what? that is just uncalled for and unacceptable. Really, may their mother’s grab them by the ears and whack em with a wooden spoon. There are things you just don’t do. I’m speechless

  9. Samantha says:

    We only have ourselves to blame. Again, we are so desensitized to this sort of thing for the most part, its disgusting. Yes, there are a handful of people here and there that go, “Man this really messed up”, but lets see when the numbers come out as to how big this magazine cover sells compared to all the others. Even with all the other outlets covering his death, I promise you that this one will end up being one of its best sellers ever. Watch. And then we want to act surprised when the company that only cares about making a buck decides to post something distasteful? Until we all stand up and say, “You know what? I’m not supporting this”, the paps will continue to take disturbing photos any way that they can, magazines will continue to buy the disturbing photos, and people will continue buying the magazine with the most horrifying cover.

  10. Cheyenne says:

    Tacky, tacky, tacky.

  11. Zoe says:

    How can this question even be posed? OF COURSE that’s crossing a line. Using a picture of someone dead on your cover to sell magazines, nonetheless putting ‘In Loving Memory’ on the cover and advertising it as a tribute issue when no real fan, family, or friend would ever want to see that is just plain criminal. There is nothing loving about it and no one wants to read a tribute to death but rather a celebration of a special life. Heaven forbid if Michael’s kids see that cover. It’s a traumatic image to anyone who ever cared about him (the few of us that did), not to mention it’s nothing the public hasn’t seen before (its the picture of paramedics trying to revive MJ that CNN so mercilessly flashed without warning). It’s not a graphic image but it’s horribly sad and not at all something that should be shared with the world. It’s so sick how even in death everyone is taking advantage of this man. RIP, MJ, may you finally get the peace in death you deserved in life.

  12. I agree that it was tasteless and tacky. I hadn’t even thought about children etc. being exposed to it on the news stands. Shameful commentary on our society. There are some interesting interviews on YouTube with MJ where he talks about the paps and how it hurts him and his children. He would be mortified that his children may one day see these pics.

  13. Amy says:

    yes i was a bit shocked when i queued up to pay for my good and there was the “memorial” issue with the big photo of michael on the stretcher as you described. thats just not acceptable no matter who it is and its a joke that they wanted to “pay tribute” to michael in that way. bs. more like they wanted all the attention as every mag is running stories on him. glad i never bought it and never will!

  14. Melanie says:

    It’s horrible. I couldn’t believe it when Entertainment Tonight was showing it on TV. I didn’t want to see him like that.

  15. t-t says:

    horrendous!! but thats the paps for u, just vultures ugh…they must be related to joe jackson… RIP MJ

  16. nag says:

    Seeing a loved one dead can be a great assistance for grief and closure. Now jacko is not my loved one, but to many Jacko was a large part of their life for a very long time… possibly their whole life.

    Maybe Hello are assisting that group with their grief and closure.

    He doesn’t look much different anyway dead or alive from the front cover.

    • mel2 says:

      I agree with Nag. It takes seeing someone lying in a casket to put closure to it all and for some people they dont want to believe that person is actually dead until they see it with their own eyes. Is it disrespectful probably but with any celebrity the paparazzi always want to get that last shot.