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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 June, 2005, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
Jackson verdict not the end, say media
By Sebastian Usher
BBC world media correspondent

Britain's Daily Express
Britain's Daily Express devotes its entire front page to the story
The drawn, white face of Michael Jackson leaving court a free man after being acquitted of all charges of child molestation gazes with exhausted relief from many papers around the world.

But the story of his acquittal has not dominated the world press in the way it might have been expected to.

That is partly due to the fact that the verdict came late for many Asian and European papers, but it may also reflect the absence of an all-consuming interest in the case, in contrast to the furore over the OJ Simpson trial in the 1990s.

This is despite the fact that more than 2,000 journalists from around the world were present in and around the courtroom for the climax of the trial.

US and British TV stations carried the verdict live - in some cases breaking into normal programming - as did many other TV stations around the world, such as the Arab news channels, al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya.

Many of the commentators on US TV were clearly taken by surprise by the outcome, with few predicting a not guilty verdict, judged by the speculation of the tense minutes before the announcement.

'He beat it'

On CNN, the lead defence lawyer in the OJ Simpson case, Robert Shapiro said the jury would give a verdict that would not have "Michael Jackson singing 'Beat It'".

After the not guilty verdict was delivered, he commented: " Now he's gonna be doing the Moonwalk."

Newspapers in the US and Britain have almost all splashed the story across their front pages.

Most feature simple banner headlines, such as " Cleared" or "Not Guilty".

The British tabloid, The Sun, offers a more pungent line on its front page: "He Beat It."

Several American and British papers devote their first four or five pages to the story, but many others have more limited coverage.

Waters muddied

After a four-month trial and years of speculation about Michael Jackson, it feels as if for many it is a struggle to find anything new to say.

In an article headlined "One strange case", The Washington Post comments: "The real Michael Jackson remains at large".

"An acquittal doesn't clear his name," the paper says, "it only muddies the water."

Of the trial itself, the paper says: "There was no sense of good and evil, no sympathetic character to root for.

Nearly everyone was dirty, or at the very least, possessed of questionable motives."

Speculation about what Michael Jackson's future holds is rife in papers around the world.

In the Los Angeles Times, its music critic, Robert Hilburn writes: "I'm wondering whether the turmoil of recent months could jolt him into reconnecting with the part of him that was once more in love with the music than the celebrity. Is it possible to ask for a third act?"

'Ugly fairytale'

Many papers mull over what strategy he may take to try to rebuild his career - through tours, records, major interviews.

But as the New York Times put it, it's "a daunting road ahead to reclaim pop glory".

The British tabloid, the Daily Mirror, sums up his future with this bleak equation: "Innocent but tainted forever."

Across Europe, the verdict features on front pages, but in many it is not the top story.

Italy's Corriere della Sera calls the saga: "The ugly fairytale" and says "Peter Pan can return to Never Never Land", although it foresees more drama to come.

France's Le Figaro says the end of the trial is also "the end of the media circus", saying that the people of Santa Maria where the trial was held will count it as a blessing that it is all over.

The Spanish paper, ABC, features a message to Michael Jackson, appealing to him to get a grip on himself, get back to writing songs and "Hit it one more time".

In Japan - where Michael Jackson still has one of his biggest fan bases - the country's best-selling newspaper, the Yomiuri Shimbun, comments on how drained and weak the star looked.

"There was no resemblance," the paper writes, "to the man who could once mesmerise the world with his phenomenal singing and dancing."

Japanese internet sites dedicated to Michael Jackson have been overflowing with messages of joy since the verdict was delivered.

One reads: "I may not be able to go to work today because I can't put on make-up since I've been crying so hard."

Historic date?

Similar messages have been posted on other fan sites around the world.

On Michael Jackson's own website, the word "Innocent" is displayed as triumphant music plays, followed by a hand displaying the "V" for victory sign.

Comparisons are then made to historic dates such as the birth of Martin Luther King, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the release of Nelson Mandela.

As far as the world's press is concerned, though, Michael Jackson' s acquittal has not grabbed quite the attention given to those other events.

There may be relief in the Jackson camp that the press for the most part has not been overtly critical of the verdict.

But the relative restraint of the coverage may be a sign that Michael Jackson no longer commands the kind of world attention - good and bad - that he once did.

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