Economic Stimulus-For News

Forget "Cash for Clunkers" or the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The best financial stimulus to hit the news biz in La-La land comes courtesy of a deceased celebrity.

I'm reporting on the estate and custody hearings in the Michael Jackson case today, and I'm seeing cameramen and producers I haven't seen since the O.J. Simpson trials, the last-and very long-stimulus for the news business here.

It's strangely fun to reconnect with old colleagues and swap memories, all as we follow a story that could end up as protracted and ugly as the Simpson case, especially with possible manslaughter charges on the horizon.

Michael Jackson Trial
Michael Jackson Trial

The photographs I've snapped show just a small portion of the over 100 media folks here.

Today's hearing will most likely give permanent custody of Michael Jackson's children to their grandmother, Katherine. The thornier issue will be, naturally, money. Mrs. Jackson seems intent on questioning the authority of the two men named by her son in his will to control his estate, which I'm told is actually worth about $100 million, not the original guesstimate of $500 million. But Michael's mother doesn't want to run the risk of trying to remove the administrators and then jeopardizing the actual will, in which she is the largest single beneficiary.

Both sides accuse the other of not being truthful, and now AEG is weighing in, asking the judge to let any contracts it has with the Jackson estate to remain confidential and under seal if they come up in court. The concert giant says it doesn't want other artists, or other concert promoters, to see the inner workings of its business dealings, for competitive reasons.

The judge may rule on some or all of these today, including letting the estate begin giving some money to Katherine Jackson and the children so they have something to live on. Judge Mitchell Beckloff may also rule on whether to make the two men named in Jackson's will as executors-long time friends John Branca and John McClain-permanent administrators ofthe estate. One interesting note, while Branca has been in court, McClain has not. Katherine Jackson's team indicated he may have a health problem which could impair his ability to run the Jackson empire.

Stay tuned.

Michael Jackson Trial
Michael Jackson Trial

Meantime, it's a feast for local media who've suffered two years of famine.

Work has dried up for desperate freelancers told to "beat it" as media companies have seen ratings and ad revenues fall.

But for the moment, and maybe for many moments to come this year, cameramen will be able to pay the mortgage, thanks to the Gloved One.

Welcome to Hollywood...

On now:

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