Under the Microscope

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This is being written on Sunday afternoon — I can't wait until Monday morning since I am once again headed back to the airport. "On the Record" is back "on the road" this week as we await the Michael Jackson (search) verdict.

I have posted some more behind the scenes pictures of the Jackson trial. Click on link in the photo box above to see my photo essay. There really are two stories in the Jackson case: What happens in the courtroom and with Jackson and how we (the media) do our jobs. I hope the pictures give you a bit of the human side to the work — we are not just mannequins on TV and the show is put together not solely by the anchor but by a huge team of people. Our team is also not just at Santa Maria courthouse — we have people working in New York and other cities. No show is a "one man band" by any means.

If you are a loyal viewer, you know Jamie Colby, my colleague, helped us out Friday night. On very short notice she got drafted to do the show since I ran into travel problems (more on that below.) From the viewer e-mail, she was great — in fact, the truth is that I got some viewer e-mails suggesting FOX News fire me and use her permanently at 10 p.m. ET.

As you may know, on Friday we ran into airline problems trying to fly from Santa Maria to Los Angeles to Dallas to Little Rock, Arkansas (we taped an interview with President Clinton (search) on Saturday morning at his Presidential Library.) Because of the time changes, and the fact our first flight at 7 a.m. was canceled, FOX ending up late in the day having to charter a flight for us. This is not common. A charter flight? An unbelievable luxury! Imagine flying straight to Little Rock in 3 1/2 hours instead of about 9 hours and several airports! But, I immediately was brought back to reality — I flew out of Arkansas on Saturday on a commercial flight... and even a middle seat! We all laughed at how we had gone from "riches to rags!"

As an aside, a viewer wrote me an e-mail complaining that I was rude to the flight attendant on Friday when I quickly deplaned after the commuter flight was canceled. The viewer regrettably did not have all the facts and may have a different opinion upon reading them all.

Here is what happened: The passenger door to the plane was open. Steps were down to the ground and the pilot announced to us all the flight canceled, so I quickly stood up (I was in the front of a small commuter flight.) I knew time was of the essence since I suspected I might have to try and drive to L.A.

The flight attendant had her back to the open door and steps and was having fun with the passengers, which I don't begrudge her — nor do I begrudge those who can make light of a problem. There were passenger jokes on the plane being tossed out to the pilot as problems developed like "try control-alt-delete." I did not have flexibility in my travels (so I thought), so I needed to think solutions and could not join in the lively banter in the plane. Commuter flights are small and "cozy" so people tend to bond more and make jokes. Likewise, the flight attendants tend to be more informal — in my opinion — and bond with the passengers.

Because the flight attendant had her back to the open door and the steps down to the ground, she did not see "security" motion us out of the plane. I did. I told her that security was waving us out. I was looking over her shoulder — and was not "distracted" by the other passengers to whom she was enjoying talking. She was looking over my shoulder into the plane and had apparently missed it. I deplaned. No one on the ground said anything to me to suggest that my deplaning was not permitted. In fact, it was OK to deplane. When I deplaned, I thought the flight attendant was in total agreement that it was time to deplane (door open, steps down and security waving us off.)

Apparently the flight attendant was unhappy that I had left so made remarks about me to other passengers. (Incidentally, I learned of her remarks from others in my traveling group who were seated in the back of the very small plane and heard them— so the e-mailer was not the first to tell me. I just assumed she was having a rough day — it is lousy for the flight attendants, too, when flights cancel. They have to try and make a lousy situation better for everyone. Her job is not an easy one.)

After seeing security wave us off, and after deplaning, I walked over to the security person and the airline person standing at the door to the airport and talked for a few minutes about options. During our conversation, but a few minutes later, the other passengers deplaned.

Anyway, I regret this viewer now has a bad opinion of me (actually, worse, FOX) but perhaps if he reads this he will moderate his opinion. One of the problems of being in the public eye is the scrutiny — and yes, we do have a higher duty to behave since we represent a big organization. But at the same time, you need to "cut us some slack" since you may not have all the facts. Sometime we in the public eye do "break bad" — but this was not one of them. I had a big time problem and my attention was focusing on solving it.

As for the interview with President Clinton, it went well from a technical point of view. The crew doing it had been there for 24 hours and really did a great job setting up the lighting, audio etc. The interview was in the new Clinton Library. I hope to post pictures soon.

Some of you will really enjoy the interview with the former president, some of you will not. Political interviews these days are like that. Some people, not all, tend to "pick sides" in political interviews — even before they are aired. I wish they didn't. I wish they listened to ideas and opinions — and then simply agreed, or disagreed with the ideas and opinions. That is what makes politics really fascinating — the debate of the ideas. I find that I don't agree with anyone completely — likewise, I don't disagree with anyone completely.

Finally, here is an e-mail update from Laura Ingle at the Jackson trial:

"Weekend at Neverland"

I spent both Saturday and Sunday camped out in front of the gates of Jackson's Neverland Ranch. I wanted to see what was going on with the "King of Pop" while he waits for the jury to start the first full day of deliberations in the case against him. There were plenty of sights and sounds to report:

Saturday, fans were anchored down in their support position outside the driveway to Jackson's property. I talked to people who traveled from all over the world who came to show Jackson their support. They came from England, Belgium, Poland, Spain... Last count, 24 countries represented. I asked one fan who has made the trip to Santa Maria several times from the U.K., "Isn't this getting expensive?" She said "I'll deal with the money issue later, being here is what's important."

Watching the fans felt like being a fly on the wall at an arts and crafts class in school. They were all sprawled out painting signs with big paintbrushes and large colored markers. All the same theme we see outside the courthouse everyday: "We love you, Michael," "M.J. innocent," etc. One of the "activities" was to paint colored foam on the sides of vehicles with messages of support. Some fans were taking a white sheet, and tearing off long strips, then tying the strips to the antennas of the cars to proclaim Jackson's innocence. While talking to fans, the gates into Neverland opened and a line of cars started driving out. The first SUV was one of the vehicles we see in Jackson's courthouse caravan, with his main bodyguard behind the wheel. He rolled down his window and asked the fans making signs, "You guys having fun? You guys praying for Michael?" He was friendly and smiled. Then, a Global Cardiocare minivan came after his car, which was a surprising moment. It looked as though there was something serious going on. Dick Gregory, M.J.'s nutritionist later said he ordered a machine from Global Cardiocare to help with M.J.'s circulation, after treating him for dehydration. We heard that M.J. needed four bags of fluid to get re-hydrated the night before at a local hospital. After the Cardiocare van left, fans continued on their mission. They were planning a "surprise" for M.J. for when he comes home this week — which I guess I'm ruining here on this blog note. The fans were taking long, long sheets of white fabric and stretching it along the fence outside Neverland, so that when Michael returns from court this week, he'll see a vision of white when he comes home. They rolled it back up for later, and were just practicing they said. One fan from overseas didn't like that I was videotaping her and told me to stop.

Sunday, I went back to Neverland to see what would happen next. You never know what you'll find at Neverland these days. The road up the mountain to Jackson's ranch is beautiful. Rolling golden hills, lots of horse ranches, big old oaks trees, tractors on the side of the road, long wooden fences dividing property. Once I pulled up to Neverland, the scene was the same: fans making more signs. Today they were listening to his music loudly in their cars. A sheriff's deputy patrolled back and forth. He stopped and talked to me. Told me they were making sure everyone knew they were around. I asked if I could go on a "ride-along" to see how they patrol the outside of Neverland. That would be a big fat "no." Fans that don't like reporters love to try to mess up live shots. While one reporter was trying to do a "stand up" the fans all started honking their horns and setting off their car alarms to throw him off — that lasted a while. I'm not sure if he ever got anything on tape that he could use.

In the third hour of my stakeout, I heard sirens — at this point, the rumor swirling around was that Jackson had gone back in the hospital or was going to be taken there. An ambulance came screaming up the road with lights and sirens on, then got about 100 feet from the gate and turned around. No word on if it was related to M.J. at all, but as it turned out, he was taken to the hospital today, and was released at 8:07 p.m. He was taken in for back pain, and released. Now the question is: Will he be able to make it to the courthouse without incident for the verdict? Stay tuned....

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