Wednesday, August 19, 2009

ABCNews' Baffling MJ Stakeout

See this?

For the past 28 days and counting, ABC News has had a journalist parked outside the home of Dr. Conrad Murray, the personal physician to Michael Jackson who was with Jackson's home when he died and is now the center of a probe into whether the death was a manslaughter. Dr. Murray, through his lawyer, has acknowledged he administered the powerful anesthetic propofol, a troubling and baffling notion.

Murray lives in the posh Red Rock Country Club in a $1.6 million home on which he hasn't paid the mortgage since December. The complex has two Arnold Palmer-signature golf courses, and Dr. Murray's home sits along the 18th hole of one. The homes are within a gated area, although there's even gated-with-in-gated for the even more exclusive folks. Murray's only in that first tier of exclusivity.

To give those of you outside Vegas some context of where this all is, here's a Google Map that shows the country club and its distance from the Bellagio:

Anyhow, back to the point. The media is in tough straits these days. You can hear about it on, well, the news. And yet the brain trust of ABC News has decided that it's a good investment -- that it's that important -- to have a 24-hour watch over this house, occupied by Dr. Murray, his wife and his four kids.

It's not just that ABC News could use the money it costs -- I'm estimating we're talking at least $15,000 a month -- to stake out Dr. Murray's home nonstop indefinitely to do meaningful journalism about the economy, health care, foreign affairs, whatever.

ABC is the only legit news agency doing this. (It appears there is one paparazzo stationed up a hill in a public area of the complex.) John Getter, the ABC producer who I visited with, befriended someone who lives in the gated community and is now on a resident's "list," which means he or his people can enter the complex and then sit there staring for hours at a time. He says he's gotten a sense of the rhythm of the Murray household but he won't shoot Murray's wife or children and Murray himself almost never comes out. Getter is Tweeting his stakeout at @Getjohn, where he's repeatedly referred to Murray as under "self-imposed house arrest." One recent Tweet: "A couple friends have mooned, sped at us in cars, taunted to attempt 2 intimidate."

Here's Getter in his car:

Getter is committed to the gig, although he did need to swap cars with his wife because hers was more comfortable and he does a lot of sitting around in the car. And he was first on the scene, obviously, when the DEA and LAPD raided Murray's house last month. But Getter told me he doesn't actually expect Murray to be arrested here; if it happens, he figures, the cops will call his lawyer and arrange a less humiliating private surrender.

So what's the point? ABC wants to video of Murray, which they haven't really gotten in all this time. They hope maybe he'll talk to them, say something, but yesterday instead Murray put out a public statement via YouTube.

The neighborhood is interesting, though. As has been reported, Elvis' doctor Elias Ghanem once lived here. What's more, Murray's home faces an empty lot and up the slope a bit is the late Ghanem's house. I don't recall which it was, but here's a pic:

Also, Harrah's veep Jan Jones lives up the block from Murray and one of the Tibertis, the family whose elders built several famous casinos back in the day, is a next-door neighbor. Oh, and not far away is Dr. Dipak Desai, who is under investigation as well because his endoscopy clinic's reuse of needles was at the center of a major Hepatitis C outbreak and panic last year.

I toured the complex just to get a feel for it. Some fabulous homes. Check it out:

The whole stakeout thing is so strange to me. Las Vegas is not a city, generally, where the media camp out on people's lawns for extended periods of time. That's New York and L.A., where it's generally a lot easier to do and where the intensity of competition among tabloid media is at its heights. I do hope ABC News decides it's worth it, but I can't imagine how they can justify that kind of cost over something that is, in the grand scheme of things, so insignificant.


Anonymous said...

What a great use of money and a life sitting all day in a car outside some guys's house who is unlikely to come out... Is he leaving the car running for A/C and thereby increasing his carbon footprint. Ben Cardin from Maryland has recently proposed making "news" companies tax exempt non-profits? This sort of behavior may help explain how they got to be non-profits in the first place.

The guy deserves to be mooned. Honestly, this is the reporter's life and he is spending outside waiting for a doctor to appear.


Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, when is the foreclosure sale set for and do you know the amount he owes?


Anonymous said...

Really, what IS this? I read the other day about how many news organizations are shutting down news bureaus in other countries/continents and even cutting back coverage in Washington, DC. Yet ABC is doing this? I know which network I won't be watching for the evening news/Nightline. Of course, they can say that it's the public driving it, that they will only tune in for celebrity gossip. They may be right, but it's a dereliction of their duty to cater to the lowest common denominator. It's not even news in terms of that. If they want the Murray story, they should stake out and develop sources in the LAPD and DA offices, not stake out the "perp," who will not give them any info. Also, if and when he's arrested (a big if, given Michael's history of other drug use and the fact he asked Murray to use the anesthesia on him), it may not be at his home, and all the other media people will be there in a heartbeat if he is.


That's alls I know...