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The lesson the media re-learned from the murder trial of O.J. Simpson is that true life drama can outsell anything Hollywood can dream up.

In the legal profession, there are differing opinions on the value of televising the trial and its subsequent "commercialization." But it was a big plus for the communications industry. The O.J. Factor has had a profound influence on mass media. Cable viewership shot up thanks to fulltime coverage of the trial by several cable channels. Mr. Simpson's face on magazine covers sold newsstand copies. Supermarket tabloids, stand-up comics and talk-show hosts fed off the trial for months.

Withdrawal symptoms for the media are not likely to manifest themselves for some time to come, however. The acquittal, of course, precludes a long appellate procedure that would have followed a conviction. But civil suits, along with the inevitable tell-all books, articles and TV interviews from everyone who ever strolled within a mile of the Los Angeles courthouse, will keep O.J. out front for a while.

We think O.J. will eventually attempt to resume a "public" life. After all, he's earned his livelihood, from USC football days on, as a figure in the public spotlight. But his re-emergence, if it comes, will be a case study in personality marketing management.

"The Juice," the affable sports hero, is gone. Forever. The new Simpson is something far, far different. A brutal murderer. Or a man rescued from police injustice. People have chosen sides. In today's media, just to be at the center of controversy can be enough to land you a program.

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