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When Show Biz And The News Business Collide

Big story? You bet.

Unprecedented? No. Just think Princess Di, Elvis, O.J.

There's a reason it's called the news business; and sometimes, the tackier the story, the more business it generates. The late, great Baltimore newspaperman, H.L. Mencken once summarized it this way: "Nobody," he said, "ever went broke underestimating the good taste of the American public."

Mencken might have been referring to what happened when his contemporary, the silent film star Rudolph Valentino, died. 100,000 people lined the streets of New York. There was an all-day riot outside the Frank Campbell Funeral Home. People trying to get in smashed the windows. Several despondent fans were said to have committed suicide. There was a funeral in New York. Then the body was shipped by train to Beverly Hills, CA for a second funeral. That was in August of 1926. Pre-Twitter, pre-cable... Pre-television. But it was great copy; and radio and the newspapers went to town on it. Readers, listeners, viewers... When the numbers go up, so does income. It was true 80 years ago. It's true now.

So, when a six-year-old documentary shows a certain superstar acknowledging a taste for sharing his bed with young boys, do not be surprised to learn that MSNBC has aired the program six times already. Indeed, writes the television columnist for the Washington Post, the cable network intends to show the documentary six more times this month.

It's true. There's no business like show business.

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Ted Koppel
Respected broadcast journalist Ted Koppel is a commentator who provides analysis and perspective on the topics and events that shape our world. His news experience and interests are wide-ranging, spanning topics from national security, values, privacy, health and the media to Iran, Iraq and the Mideast.