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Media Literacy Review
Center for Advanced Technology in Education - College of Education - University of Oregon - Eugene

Cleaning Up After OJ

Bill Walsh, Contributing Writer

Years ago after a circus parade had passed through a town, you could always see some guy bringing up the rear. His job was to scoop up the elephant droppings. After all, SOMEONE has to sweep up afterwards, and it occurs to me that we could use some of that in the aftermath of the circus-like OJ trial -- someone to collect the mess so innocent folks don't step in it. I'm volunteering. The only difference is that I'm going to share it with you before we toss it away.

Nearly 43% of all American households watched the reading of the verdicts on Tuesday, and the event garnered huge Neilsen ratings -- it got a 91 share. One problem with the ratings, however, was that the estimate of 95.9 million households watching the verdicts couldn't take into account the millions of people who watched at work or away from home. And because it was carried live on nearly every TV station, it's hard to tell exactly how many folks were watching, but experts generally agree that it might have been as many as 150 million people.

Consolidated Edison in New York City reported that the demand for electricity soared as approximately 750,000 TV sets were turned on shortly before the verdict was announced. Twenty minutes later, the electrical demand fell back to normal levels.

MPI Home Video has already released home video versions of the closing arguments in the case and the verdict announcement (They work VERY fast). The $30 videos will join three previous MPI releases -- home videos on the preliminary hearing in the case and a two-volume set of the opening arguments.

On Tuesday when OJ Simpson finally walked into his own house after more than a year in jail, one of the people waiting for him was his agent, who reportedly is trying to arrange a pay- per-view cable deal featuring OJ. One cable executive loved the idea, exclaiming, "At $14.95, we'd have a 60% buy rate." HBO and some cable companies have already turned down initial offers, but other cable networks appear very interested. Although Simpson's "cut" of the deal would be a matter for negotiation, people are talking about figures in the ten million dollar range. There is some talk about having Larry King host the event.

Hertz says it has no plans to rehire Simpson as its spokesperson. NBC (where Simpson was a sportscaster) has declined to comment on OJ's future with the network. One expert suggested that OJ's fee for a personal appearance will jump from the $20,000 (pre-trial) level to $50,000.

Members of the jury are already trying to sell their stories to the press for as much as $100,000 each.

Attorney General Janet Reno announced that the FBI is now investigating charges of police misconduct raised in the trial.

The State Bar of California is conducting an investigation into the conduct of all the attorneys in the case in light of complaints from the public and the judiciary about the lawyers' behavior.

OJ's lawyers are trading charges and countercharges.

Prosecutor Chris Darden is "reassessing" the statement he made in the trial about quitting the legal profession.

Kato Kaelin called a press conference to announce his reaction to the verdict. Surprisingly, some press people actually showed up.

Already "OJ Withdrawal" is becoming a psychological problem for some people. A Los Angeles psychologist says that the end of the trial has created "a gigantic emotional hole" for some people -- a hole which he doubts soap operas will be able to fill. "Soap operas are not going to be real enough for them," he explains, and he also suggests that some people might need therapy to get over this time.

The OJ Simpson trial has raised dozens of interesting issues and scores of thorny questions which swirl around the media, the judicial system, the public's hunger for entertainment, and "cashing in" on a very real, very tragic crime. These controversies will not be settled overnight, nor even, perhaps, in years.

A huge a colorful and noisy and entertaining and grotesque media circus has just left town after a very long run. We need time to think about what we've all just experienced, to try to make sense of it (or to see if any of it DOES make sense).

And we need also to slowly sweep up the mess that the event has left in its wake, and to wonder if there might be a way to leave perhaps a little less waste behind the next time out.

Bill Walsh is the A/V Media Specialist at Billerica High School, Billerica, MA.