Jackson coverage in Asia favors TV, Web
Pop star's death happened after newspapers' deadlinesMore Michael Jackson coverage
BANGKOK -- The death of Michael Jackson was too late for the morning newspapers in Asia, but TV, radio and electronic media were quick to fill the gap.
Intensity of coverage varied considerably across the region, reflecting the differing penetration of English-language music as well as Jackson's past tours, performances and private life.
Japanese media gave massive coverage to the death of "Michael-san," with special editions of tabloids rushed out across Tokyo, radio stations playing Jackson on heavy rotation and even a government spokesperson releasing a statement, saying "how influential" he was.
Jackson had a large and enduring fan base in Japan, having made a number of visits to Tokyo, even on occasions when he wasn't performing.
TV news and variety shows mixed up their coverage with domestic reactions, U.S. coverage and interviews in record shops across Japan that have erected "mourning corners" displaying Jackson's best-selling albums.
In South Korea, where Jackson had also made a distinct impression, the reaction was especially seen online. Wave of comments expressing condolences filled Korean online communities all day. And Jackson was celebrated by the local music industry including Korean singing superstar Rain, whose energy and dance moves often had him bracketed with Jackson.
The pan-regional channels and Asian feeds of the global information channels played the news large. CNN in Asia made Jackson by far its biggest story, mixing up news reporting from Los Angeles, with performance footage and a splash of uninformed speculation. The network also resorted to vox pop reactions with rush-hour pedestrians in the street outside CNN's (and The Hollywood Reporter's) Quarry Bay, Hong Kong bureau.
MTV's international feed was quick to rebrand itself, adorning its own logo with a red heart and the letters MJ RIP. In contrast, in Beijing local radio played Michael Jackson news in light rotation and the Web sites of most Chinese papers had his image front and center, but there were mixed feelings for the fallen "King of Pop."
Hits from "Thriller" blared Friday morning drive time FM radio, reminding some midlife commuters of a time when their closed communist country had just opened its doors to the outside world in the early 1980s.
By midmorning, Jackson's death was the top news item on popular Chinese Internet portals Tencent, Sohu and Sina.com, which called him the "most remarkable singer ever."
Images of the fallen "King of Pop" adorned the splash pages of the Web sites of both the People's Daily and its English-language counterpart, the China Daily.
Music critic Wang Xiaofeng discounted Jackson's influence, telling the Xinhua news agency that China's pop musicians had learned more from the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and John Lennon.
Chinese Web sites long displayed a fascination with Jackson, more for his multiple plastic surgeries, however, than for his music. Over the years, negative reports were common after Jackson was accused of molesting two boys.
News of Jackson's death broke early morning Friday Australian time, enabling the broadcast networks' breakfast television programs to switch to live rolling coverage of the news and reaction.
The Nine and Seven Networks, which have bureaus in Los Angeles, were able to provide on-the-spot coverage, and Nine stayed live with the story for four hours until midday. However, Nine entertainment reporter Richard Wilkins was caught short when he reported the hoax story of actor Jeff Goldblum's death as fact, during Nine's coverage.
Meanwhile, News Ltd.'s Melbourne Herald Sun newspaper published a special afternoon tribute edition and local news Web sites reported massive spikes in traffic not seen since president Barack Obama's January inauguration.
As their colleagues in the U.S. did, Australian musicians took to social networking site Twitter to pay their tributes. "I wish I got to tell him how much his music and existence changed my life," Lisa Origliasso from the Veronicas wrote on Twitter. "He was my biggest inspiration and will forever live on in my heart," singer Delta Goodrem said.
Australia had some significant connections for Jackson. It was in Sydney in November 1996 when he married nurse Debbie Rowe at the Sheraton Hotel. But it was earlier in Perth that he made a significant business deal, buying ATV Music Publishing, which holds the rights to the Beatles song catalogue, from Australian businessman Robert Holmes a Court, for $47.5 million in 1985.
Part of the deal included that Jackson appeared in Channel Seven Perth's annual telethon, bringing arguably then the biggest star in the world to the city to raise money for Princess Margaret Children's Hospital.
In Thailand, Jackson coverage made the main TV news shows, but overall schedules did not appear majorly changed. English-language newspapers carried unedited wire-service stories for large parts of the day.
Jackson officially visited Korea three times, including one time in 1998 for the inauguration of president Kim Dae-jung. The following year, in his last tour in Seoul, Jackson's concert coincided with the memorial day for the Korean War. Jackson was fondly remembered for sharing his revenues with war victims and underprivileged children and for urging the divided country's reunification.
"He was everything that all the great memories of my youth symbolized," said a writer identified as "Moga Jackson" in "Michael Jackson's Moonwalkids," a Jackson fan site in Korea.
One of the biggest Asian reactions – and most surprising to the uninitiated – came in India. News of Jackson's death went on heavy rotation on all Indian news networks early Friday morning with coverage intensifying throughout the day.
Jackson had worked with Oscar winning Indian film composer A.R. Rahman ("Slumdog Millionaire") for a 2001 single "Ekam Satyam" ('The One Truth') and in 1996 performed in Mumbai to a sellout crowd of more than 100,000 fans at a time when concerts by major foreign artists in India was a rarity.
Fans and professionals pitched in. Well-known film composer Sandeep Chowta, who also heads the recently established Columbia Records India label, wrote on his Facebook page, "I am shocked and in disbelief. The greatest entertainer mankind has seen has left us with his legacy of music ... May his soul rest in peace."
Timed with Jackson's comeback tour in London in July, there seemed to be renewed interest in the singer's back catalog. Mumbai-based Sony BMG associate director Arjun Sankalia told THR that the label had just launched the "Michael Jackson: This Is It" promo contest last week in association with New Delhi-based radio station Hit 95 FM. The winner was to fly to London to attend one of Jackson's concerts.
In February, Sony BMG released a best of Jackson compilation album as part of an online promotion with Indian social networking site ibibo.com which featured tracks selected by Indian fans. "This was the first democratically compiled album released in India and proved that Jackson had a very dedicated fan base here that followed his artistry and ignored all the negative issues that he was surrounded with in recent years,' Sankalia said.
MTV India's international programming channel Vh1 India is planning special programming on Jackson. Mumbai-based Vh1 India general manager Farzad Palia said "In addition to airing Jackson's iconic videos, we will also draw from our archives to air specials and other content."
The Hong Kong branch of waxworks museum, Madame Tussauds swiftly announced that it would be putting its Jackson figure in the entrance hall and opening a book of condolences.
Nyay Bhusan in New Delhi, Soo-mee Park in Seoul, Jonathan Landreth in Beijing, Pip Bulbeck in Sydney and Gavin Blair in Tokyo contributed to this report.