Blame It on the OJ

The news feels like it will never slow down; and it probably won’t, as much as you may miss the days before the 24-hour news cycle and constant social media news updates, alerts, and badges, we in the biz, miss those days even more.

           As I directed more continuing coverage of the apparently endless and nonsensical Johnny Depp and Amber Herd defamation trial a couple weeks ago a colleague noted that he blames OJ for “all of this.” He wasn’t wrong in his summation; June 1994 and the white Ford Bronco was certainly one of those moments. That car chase was the intersection of crime, celebrity, and breaking news, not to mention that TV news folks LOVE a car chase. After the chase of course the entire OJ trial was televised, add a few celebrity lawyers who can turn a phrase for TV “if the glove don’t fit, you must acquit,” and you have a recipe for a fair share of the days Nielsen ratings. But fast forward almost 30 years and the media landscape, which in 1994 was still discovering the 24-hour news cycle and best practices for cable news stations, is now more segmented than ever and is in the midst of the new wave of a creation of best practices for streaming services offering live coverage. So when I get told by the editorial staff that “Depp vs Herd is our most clicked on story” all I can do is keep directing the absolute insanity of trial that shouldn’t be televised. We’ve got much bigger fish to fry, but because viewers want an escape from the four horses of the apocalypse that is normal breaking news coverage, they choose to listen in on the lives of the rich and famous as a form of escapism.

           Covid is still hanging on, war in Ukraine, inflation, mid-term elections are coming, crises everywhere you look… and I mean everywhere. We’ve got CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, NBC, News Max, News Nation, Fox News, Fox Business, One America News Network, Cheddar, Peacock, CBS News Streaming, BBC, PBS, CNBC, New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, Axios, Vox, HuffPost, NPR, AP, Time, Reuters, CNET, Bloomberg…and these are just a taste of outlets popular in THIS country. There are so very many media mouths to feed, so we in the business are getting clicks and views where we can- so be it Amber! But I can’t help but think that the generation before me, who put the entire OJ chase and trial on TV could have guessed what Pandora’s Box they were opening nor do I think they had this gut feeling of how nauseating the bread and circus can be for those working for the circus. There are many days when I know that the producers and journalists I work with are the fourth estate. They are the watchdogs, they are putting their lives on the line in Ukraine, in Palestine, in Mexico, they do this, we all do this for the sake of truth and knowledge. But then there are other days, in which I question if we should shut the whole thing down, ONLY broadcast/stream when we have something relevant to say instead of just plugging along and feeding the lions.

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