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The First Time News Was Fit to Print: Michael Jackson

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Every now and again, we head into the archives of The New York Times to find the first time the paper covered a particular topic. With the media offering non-stop coverage of his memorial service today, let's look back at what the Times had to say about Michael Jackson when he was just getting started:

Michael Jackson

April 25, 1973

MJ-1973The Jackson Five, black and from Detroit, were the pioneers, and their weeny-bopper attraction is Michael, now aged 14, who at this year's Academy Award ceremonies sang "Ben," the only love song written so far to a real, live rat.

Merchandising right ahead, Michael's recording company has recorded him as a solo artist. his latest album is Music and Me, which is a further example of his career direction. To have him sing such an emotive tearjerker as the old teen-age ballad "Too Young" is to move him far away from the Jackson Five's early roots, which were solidly commercial rhythm and blues.
* * *
To pop purists, this may be regrettable, but commercially it is an astute move toward maturity and longevity. After all, Michael Jackson is 14 and already they are talking about how old David Cassidy (of the Partridge Family) appears to be to the teeny-boppers.

Keep reading for early reaction to 'Thriller,' Bubbles and more.

Off the Wall

October 21, 1979

The Evolution of Pop Soul
off-the-wallThe fall's best new pop-soul record, Michael Jackson's Off the Wall, is also Motown-related in that Mr. Jackson grew up in the Motown fold as the boy wonder-lead singer of the Jackson Five. Off the Wall is his first solo album since the Jackson family signed with Epic several years ago, and it marks his ultimate transition from child star to adult singing idol. The album teams Mr. Jackson with producer Quincy Jones, the brilliant jazz and pop arranger-conductor-composer.
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Although at this point in his career, Michael Jackson may lack Stevie Wonder's emotional depth, he's already the equal of both Mr. Wonder and Smokey Robinson, the other obvious Motown prototype, in technical control.


December 19, 1982

Michael Jackson's Thriller: Superb Job
thrillerSince he caught the public's fancy as a bouncing, spinning, piping, 11-year-old mini-superstar in 1970, Michael Jackson has been a full-fledged celebrity, living a celebrity's life. That's worth remembering, because it means that today, one must guard against the assumption that he is a mature, fully formed artist and human being. He is certainly a seasoned veteran: His whole life has been shaped by entertainment, and he is a practiced - sometimes too practiced - performer, recording star and film actor. But he remains a young man, and with luck he will continue to mature.
* * *
Thriller is a wonderful pop record, the latest statement by one of the great singers in popular music today. But it is more than that. It is as hopeful a sign as we have had yet that the destructive barriers that spring up regularly between white and black music - and between whites and blacks - in this culture may be breached once again. Most important of all, it is another signpost on the road to Michael Jackson's own artistic fulfillment.

"We Are The World"

February 27, 1985

Artists Join in Effort for Famine Relief
we-are-the-worldOn March 11, Columbia Records will release "We Are the World," a new song written by Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson and performed by a chorus of 45 pop stars calling themselves USA for Africa (United Support of Artists for Africa). Roughly 90 percent of the proceeds...will be donated to African famine relief. Another 10 percent will go to fight homelessness and malnutrition in the United States.

"We Are the World" is an American response to "Do They Know It's Christmas?," the single that was recorded late last year in London by Band Aid, a group of British rock stars. The record became the most successful single in British history, selling 3.5 million copies in Britain and 2.5 million in the United States and raising $9.2 million.
* * *
What had begun as a supersession of black singers expanded after Bruce Springsteen agreed to become involved. Some of the stars who ended up donating their talents were Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Willie Nelson, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Ray Charles, Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, Huey Lewis, Paul Simon and Dionne Warwick.
* * *
The We Are the World album, which Quincy Jones is supervising, will include previously unreleased tracks by a number of major stars. Linda Ronstadt is contributing "Keeping Out of Mischief," Prince "Tears in Your Eyes," and Bruce Springsteen a live version of Jimmy Cliff's "Trapped."


September 14, 1987

Jackson Conquers Tokyo
MJ-BubblesMr. Jackson arrived at Narita Airport Wednesday, and although the concerts' sponsors, N.T.T., Pepsico and Nihon Television, attempted to keep his arrival date and time a secret, hundreds of fans were there to greet him.

Mr. Jackson's pet chimpanzee Bubbles, who has received almost as much publicity here as the rock star, arrived a few hours earlier, wearing a red and white striped shirt and denim overalls. Bubbles was accompanied by three members of Mr. Jackson's staff.

Department stores in Tokyo have been selling stuffed chimpanzees called "Michael's Pets" in honor of Bubbles. And the ice-cream store chain Hobson's advertised it was celebrating the beginning of Mr. Jackson's concert tour by giving away a free scoop of ice cream to each customer who purchased a $21 stuffed Bubbles.

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Old News: Very Early Media Coverage of the GOP Candidates
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Every week, I used to wander into the New York Times archives to find the first time the paper covered various topics (like The Walkman). In honor of tonight's Iowa Caucus, we're bringing back "The First Time News Was Fit to Print." Here are the first times The Times mentioned each of the remaining GOP candidates.

Mitt Romney

February 28, 1960

A Maverick Starts a New 'Crusade'
mitt-and-george.jpgGeorge Romney feels that he has pat across the compact car. Now he is turning his missionary fervor to a campaign to reshape American political institutions.

The man who made the compact car big competition for Detroit's land yachts is crusading against bigness on an even bigger scale these days. George Romney, the almost terrifyingly earnest head of the American Motors Corporation, has moved from his conquest of the gas-guzzling dinosaur into a battle to break up the concentration of economic power embodied in giant companies and giant unions.
He speaks with equal disrespect of the ranking politicians of both major parties when it comes to their readiness to face up to what he considers the make-or-break issues in America's survival.
George Romney considers talking his wife out of a movie career his greatest sales achievement. They are shown here with their children, Mitt, Jane and Scott.

[Well, not here. This picture is from two years later, when George announced he was running for President. To see the picture referenced here, you'll have to check out the original article.]

Ron Paul

April 28, 1976

Big Victory by Bentsen Called Vital to Re-election
John B. Connally, the popular former Democratic Governor [of Texas], was credited in 1970 with pushing Mr. [Lloyd] Bentsen to victory over Mr. [George] Bush [in the Senate race]. Mr. Connally, now a Republican, helped a politically unknown gynecologist, Dr. Ron Paul, upset a liberal Democrat, Bob Gammage, in a race last month to fill the unexpired 22d Congressional District seat vacated by Democrat Bob Casey, who has been appointed to the Federal Maritime Commission.

Rick Santorum

November 7, 1990

The 1990 Elections: State by State
In an upset, Representative Doug Walgren, a seven-term Democratic Congressman from Pittsburgh, lost to a political neophyte, Richard Santorum, a 32-year-old Republican lawyer who ran on an anti-incumbent theme.

Michele Bachmann

September 24, 2006

Campaign in Crisis Mode (by Charles Baxter)
While my assignment was to write about Minnesota’s important Senate race, I think there’s more to be learned right now from the far closer contest in Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District, which borders Minneapolis-St. Paul to the east, north and west. The race, between Michele Bachmann, the Republican, and Patty Wetterling, the Democrat, has revealed a Bush-era national trend now visible locally.
Terrorism has infected every subject and every discussion, even locally. Alarmism has become so ubiquitous in discussions of Iraq, the decline of the family and financing for Social Security and education that polarization is assured. Extremity, after all, is more newsworthy than good sense.

This outlook has the effect of trivializing most local issues — who cares about farm-price supports when radical Muslims want to make Stillwater part of the caliphate? And it ensures that the volume will always be turned up to 11 — at least until everybody begins to suffer crisis fatigue and tries to calm down.

Newt Gingrich

November 2, 1974

Divided GOP in Georgia Facing a Rout on Tuesday
In another House race, however, Republicans may be able to take some comfort. In the state's Sixth District, suburban Atlanta, the 10-term Democratic mainstay who ran unopposed in 1972, faces a strong challenge from a 31-year-old history professor, Newt Gingrich. Although Mr. Flynt is favored, he is facing some difficulty because he is now running in a redrawn district in which his strength has not yet been tested.

[Note: Gingrich narrowly lost.]

Rick Perry

November 8, 1990

Farm Chief's Foe Has the Last Laugh
The Texas Agriculture Commissioner with the Borscht Belt sense of humor is out. Jim Hightower, a two-term incumbent known as an advocate of enlightened farming as well as one of the funniest figures in American politics, was defeated Tuesday by Rick Perry, a 40-year-old rancher and farmer.
Katie Dickie, Mr. Perry's press secretary, said today that her candidate "took a lot of angry farmers, banded them together, raised money in places like Garden City, Sterling City, the small places all across Texas, East Texas and West Texas."

She added, "Rick wants to refocus the department on mainstream agriculture."

Jon M. Huntsman, Jr.

July 22, 1998

Nova of Canada to Purchase Huntsman Styrene Business
The Nova Corporation of Canada will acquire the bulk of the styrene operations of the Huntsman Corporation for $860 million (United States) in cash and preferred stock, the companies announced yesterday.
For Huntsman, of Salt Lake City, the largest privately held chemical company in the United States, the deal represents a chance to pay down debt and to increase funds to homeless shelters and other charities that its ownership family has long supported.

In particular, it will let Huntsman funnel more than $100 million into research on genetic predispositions to cancer. Jon M. Huntsman [the candidate's father], the company's chairman, lost both his parents to cancer and has had two bouts with the disease himself.
Under the terms of yesterday's deal, Huntsman will receive $625 million in cash, and $235 million of nonvoting preferred shares, which can be converted to a maximum of 10 million common shares of Nova stock in two years. Nova will also assume $60 million of Huntsman's debt. After the deal, Huntsman will become Nova's largest shareholder.

Mr. Huntsman expects the two companies to combine some purchasing operations and to seek ways to combine product lines and operations. His son, Jon M. Hunstman Jr., will sit on Nova's board.

More First Mentions Worth Mentioning...

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See all the previous installments of The First Time News Was Fit To Print
November 3, 2007: Appearance on NPR Weekend Edition Saturday

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10 Headlines from 9/11/01
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We spent the summer of 2001 chastising Gary Condit, mourning Mr. Belvedere, and pardoning Microsoft. But on the second Tuesday of September, a mere twenty months after widespread wisecracks about the world ending on Y2K, it felt like the world did. I've been reading through the online archives of The New York Times from September 11, 2001, to see what was in the news the morning of the attacks. Here are some of the headlines:

1. Taliban Suicide Bombers Target Deposed Afghan Leaders

"If the would-be assassins were indeed Arabs, as the United Front asserted, the fact would lend credibility to those who contend that foreigners, including Osama bin Laden, are playing an ever bigger decision-making role among the Taliban."

2. Washington: Rumsfeld Attacks Bureaucracy

"Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said that he was declaring war on bureaucracy in the Pentagon and that he wanted to combine some civilian and military staffs, cut duplication in the military services and shift some jobs to the private sector."

3. Senator Joe Biden attacks President Bush on Missile Defense

"Mr. Biden has fastened onto missile defense as the centerpiece of his critique of Bush foreign policy. In part, that is because the system is almost the sole focus of the administration's foreign policy... 'Are we willing to end four decades of arms control agreements, and go it alone, a kind of bully nation, sometimes a little wrongheaded, but ready to make unilateral decisions in what we perceive to be our self-interest?' Mr. Biden said in his speech at the National Press Club."

4. Michael Jordan to Unretire (Again)?

"Jordan is either getting ready to return to the N.B.A. at the age of 38 or he is setting up the sports world for a letdown of legendary proportion. Either way, the drama builds. Speaking with three reporters, Jordan said he was less than 10 days away from a news conference in Washington announcing his decision."

5. Grand Jury Declines Request For Inquiry into Condit Matter

"A grand jury has rejected a flight attendant's request that it investigate her complaint that Representative Gary A. Condit obstructed justice by asking her to sign an affidavit falsely stating that they did not have an affair....Anne Marie Smith, 40, said that she and Mr. Condit had a 10-month romance and that his intermediaries tried to get her to sign an affidavit denying the affair....Ms. Smith's link with Mr. Condit became public after the disappearance in Washington of Chandra Ann Levy, a 24-year-old government intern from Modesto, on May 1. Mr. Condit, 53, is not considered a suspect in the disappearance, but he acknowledged having had a relationship with Ms. Levy."

6. Mayoral Candidates Crisscross City Seeking Last Few Votes

"The six major candidates running to succeed Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani ranged across the city yesterday in the final burst of politicking before the polls open today. Dodging late summer downpours, the candidates hit neighborhoods where they thought they might be able to eek out just a few more votes. Crossing and crisscrossing the boroughs -- sometimes missing one anothers' campaigns by just minutes -- it seemed as though the six candidates were out to shake every hand in the city."

7. Broncos Win Game, Lose Receiver

"The New York Giants did not upset the festive Denver atmosphere as the Broncos christened their noisy new home with a loud and thorough 31-20 rout. The game's outcome seem to hinge on a gruesome injury to Denver's Pro Bowl wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, who broke his lower left leg early in the third quarter."

8. Disco Near Auschwitz to Close

"The owner of a building now used as a disco but once a tannery where Nazis sorted the luggage and clothes of Jews at Auschwitz said he would not renew the club's lease when it expires in November."

9. U.S. Blacklists Paramilitaries in Colombia

"Being put on the State Department list of terrorist groups means that financial support for the organization is illegal. The action also makes it easier for the United States to seize assets, an important factor because investigators here estimate that the paramilitary groups have hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign bank accounts."

10. Thomas Friedman on Terror in Israel

"You drive south...and there is another long concrete wall blocking snipers from hitting Gilo, but also sealing in Gilo. There are Hebrew posters all over this wall that read: 'The New Middle East.' Some Israeli coffee shops now have security guards at the door to deter suicide bombers."

See previous installments of 'The First Time News Was Fit To Print.'


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