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When we own the news

With two days to go, it has been a week of notable deaths — four historic American icons have met their demise.

Ed McMahon First, Ed McMahon, faithful sidekick of Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show for thirty years, passed away on Tuesday. Ed hosted the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes, and Star Search when I was growing up, and was the easily-recognized face behind the American Family Publishers sweepstakes which promised, "You may already be a winner!"

Farrah Fawcett Second, Farrah Fawcett, one of Charlie's Angels, probably best known for either the best-selling poster shown here or the hairstyle she wore in it, passed away this morning after a film career which spanned three decades. She posed nude in Playboy at the age of fifty, and I don't care who you are — you've really got to admire a woman who is still proud enough of (or at least not ashamed of) her body at that age to do that.

Michael Jackson Third, the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, has died of an apparent cardiac arrest. Michael had a lengthy musical career which started when he was eleven years old as a member of the Jackson 5. He launched his solo career at the ripe old age of 13 the year I was born. And despite the ridicule, speculation, and controversy he created and tolerated in latter years of his life, he was truly loved by millions and always seemed to generate a media frenzy.

Which allows me to clumsily segue into the fourth notable death this week.

Before Michael Jackson's death was officially confirmed, the social networks were atwitter (pardon the pun) with rumors which quickly spread across the globe. Those in the know were able to get the news out through the Internet, bypassing the anchor desks and stodgy sound bites, and into the minds of the consuming public. Meanwhile, corporate media was following protocol and saying "we are unable to confirm at this time" and avoiding speculation. The news spread regardless, and by the time the facts had been sanitized, checked, double-checked, and triple-checked, the world had already put the pieces together itself and discovered the truth.

When news travels faster than can be reported through official sources, those sources are no longer official, and their relevance is called into question.

So today, hours before the death of the man who brought us the moonwalk and Thriller, the ivory towers collapsed and corporate media passed away. Sure, it will continue to exist — it is a money-making venture, after all — but beyond that, it no longer matters.

Remember where you were when you learned Michael Jackson died, but more importantly, remember where you heard the news first.

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