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Read All About It! Just Don't Buy The Book.

(AP)
There's an argument that always arises when some unsavory character drums up a whole lot of media attention for his or her latest unsavory project. The media, so the argument goes, in allowing said character to suck up a decent portion of the news cycle, is inevitably complicit in the eventual profit that the unsavory character makes. Such is the case with O.J. Simpson's new book, in which he "hypothetically" explains how he would have murdered his wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend Ron Goldman, if he had done it. Fox Television is also broadcasting an interview with Simpson regarding the book with his publisher Judith Regan.

Predictably, the whole spectacle has generated a storm of media attention -- most of it reflecting utter disgust. It's a lot of the same disgust that arose during the trial of O.J. Simpson for the murders, an event that essentially coined the phrase "media circus." Many a reporter's career was invigorated by the coverage.

Intentionally or otherwise, the media is inherently complicit in Simpson's eventual profit from sales of the book. St. Petersburg Times media critic Eric Deggans discussed it on "Reliable Sources"yesterday:

"Obviously, they knew that there would be a huge, critical reaction to this, that people would criticize it, that we all would talk about it. And unfortunately, in passing along the information that sort of lets people know how awful this is, we also wind up creating the publicity that fuels the machine that sells the book and gets people to watch the TV show."
His solution – apart from the obvious pleas ("I would just beg Nielsen families everywhere, people who are measured by the ratings service, please do not watch this show. Please do not watch this show") -- is a more measured request, which he explains on his blog:
"You can experience the interview without ever actually watching the TV show. … I've told people for years that my job as TV critic is to watch the crap so you don't have to: maybe it's time we all took that concept a little more seriously. The same strategy works for Simpson's book, as well. Read the endless reviews; check out the feature stories on the issues raised. Just don't buy the book."
As one of those pundits who's already appeared on countless cable news segments discussing the book and all its potential implications, Deggans is an an awkward, but legitimate position. It's a story that obviously interests people (I mean, seriously, Could O.J. Go to Court Again?) so it's not something that journalists and cable news gabfests would likely ignore. What Deggans suggests is something else – that the public control its exposure to the whole hoopla by exercising some purposeful restraint. The question, of course, is whether we anyone actually will.

UPDATE: It looks like the outrage had an impact -- you won't have the option of buying Simpson's book or seeing the interview. NewsCorp, which owns book publisher HarperCollins and the Fox Network, has cancelled publication of the book and production of the interview. News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch called it an "ill-considered project" and apologized to the Brown and Goldman families.

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