Nearly two in three Americans said news organizations gave too much coverage to the sudden death of Michael Jackson in the days following his June 25 heart attack in Los Angeles, according to the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

While 64 percent deemed media attention to the 50-year-old pop superstar excessive, 29 percent thought it was appropriate and only 3 percent thought there was not enough coverage.

As reports of Jackson's death dominated media coverage at week's end, 30 percent of those surveyed during June 26-29 said they followed those stories "very closely," with that level similar to the 28 percent who said they followed the death of NBC newsman Tim Russert very closely in June 2008 and the 30 percent who followed the death of crocodile hunter Steve Irwin very closely in September 2006. Nonetheless, interest in Jackson's death is far less than the 54 percent who said they followed the sudden deaths of John F. Kennedy Jr. in July 1999 and Princess Diana in September 1997.

Half of those surveyed said the media struck the right balance between reporting on Jackson's musical legacy, forged over the past four decades, and his problematic personal life. Some 26 percent said the media focused too much on the scandals in Jackson's life; 11 percent thought the coverage weighed too heavily on Jackson's musical career.

African Americans followed the death of the singer more closely than the population as a whole. Eight in 10 African Americans said they followed news about Jackson's death very closely, compared with 22 percent of whites. Women followed the story more closely than men; 35 percent said they very closely paid attention compared to 26 percent for men. While Jackson hadn't released a big hit in 20 years, 38 percent of those under 40 said they followed the music icon's death very closely, compared with 27 percent of those between 40 and 64 and 20 percent of those 65 and older.

A separate analysis of media coverage by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism showed that for the entire week of June 22-28 Jackson's death and the bloody unrest after the disputed Iranian elections received similar levels of media coverage. The protests in Iran made up 19 percent of the news hole for the week, while the Jackson story accounted for 18 percent. But from the time the Jackson story broke Thursday afternoon, June 25, to the end of the day Friday, 60 percent of the news coverage studied was devoted to his death, life story and legacy, according to PEJ. The coverage of Iran slid to 7 percent of the news hole in that same time period.

-- Nielsen Business Media

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