An Editor’s Worst Nightmare

Well, it must be a magazine editor’s worst nightmare… The latest issue of Q magazine dropped through my door today. It had a full page front cover of Michael Jackson. Well, at first I didn’t give it a second glance because Jackson’s picture has been everywhere. But then it occurred to me that it was impossible that the magazine could have been printed and posted so quickly. Then the horrible truth dawned on me as I ripped oven the plastic cover …

The cover story is billed as “Michael Jackson Unmasked”. On the masthead page, the editorial declares in large type: “It’s the month of Jacko”. Well, I suppose he wasn’t wrong. Indeed, Editor Paul Rees peers into his crystal ball and editorialises thus:

“At the time of going to press, the self-styled king of pop was due to play the first shows of his proposed 50-night stand at London’s O2 arena within a matter of days. But, as Q has learned in the process of putting this issue together, there are no certainties in Michael Jackson’s world – besides the one that suggests that anything that can go madly, will go madly.”

This is the prelude to a 16-page full colour extravaganza on Michael Jackson billed as “The tale of the biggest comeback in history!”

“On 13 July 2009 Michael Jackson is set to play the first of 50 dates at London’s O2 Arena. It is the most ambitious comeback in the history of popular music, but several questions still hang in the air. Will he turn up? Will he sing more than a few lines? Can Michael Jackson really survive 50 shows or will his body and mind, both seemingly so fragile, disintegrate under the pressure of it all?”

And then the article goes on to talk about the man “gambling his reputation on Jackson turning up for the shows”. Ouch! As a footnote, the writing on the magazine spine says: “Michael Jackson | The Enemy | The Dead Weather | Spinal Tap | The Horrors | Dead Rock Stars”

Alas, the “dead rock stars” story has a CSI-style forensic investigator re-examining famous rock star deaths, including Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Buckley and Bob Marley. It couldn’t be more ghoulish following the 16-page Jackson extravaganza.

Oh, and it’s dated August 2009. So now bizarrely, Michael Jackson must be the first rock star to have a front page story in a music paper of record announcing a new concert series dated a month after his death.

From Rhodes Journalism Review, October 2009.

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