'Treatment' sways Jackson prosecutor press strategy

LOS ANGELES: The prosecution in the Michael Jackson case weighed many factors when crafting its media strategy. But now that the gag orders have been lifted and those behind the scenes may speak, it seems clear that one factor outweighed all others: a rep

LOS ANGELES: The prosecution in the Michael Jackson case weighed many factors when crafting its media strategy. But now that the gag orders have been lifted and those behind the scenes may speak, it seems clear that one factor outweighed all others: a rep

Susan Tellem, who heads California-based Tellem Worldwide, worked with Santa Barbara, CA, DA Tom Sneddon on a pro-bono basis from November 2003 until the end of the trial earlier this month and helped the prosecution strategize on which outlets would get access to the DA post-verdict.

Sneddon made some decisions on whom to speak with based on "who had treated him well and who had treated him poorly" over the course of the trial, said Tellem. ABC, for example, was ultimately denied interviews after the verdict because it had previously reported on the grand jury testimony.

"ABC leaked the grand jury testimony, and [Sneddon] wasn't happy with that, so he wouldn't do any ABC interviews," explained Tellem.

Fox's Geraldo Rivera was also turned away because "Geraldo from day one was very negative about the prosecution," she said.

Sneddon also had favorites, said Tellem, including Court TV's Diane Dimond, who announced last week that she is writing a book on the case. Others whom Sneddon felt treated him fairly included KFI radio's Laura Ingle, CNN's Nancy Grace, and the AP's Tim Molloy.

Tellem also worked with Sneddon and other attorneys on the case to streamline messages for post-verdict interviews and added that the DA's team surprised her by being willing to do a large number of interviews despite losing the case.

"They wanted to help people understand how the boy felt and how they still believed Michael Jackson was guilty, and they did not want that message to be lost," she said.

Tellem said that, while the jury was in deliberations, she and two staff members "walked the media walk," speaking with the 2,255 credentialed journalists on hand to hear the verdict. Despite long hours and hard work, she said that the Jackson trial had been helpful in raising her firm's profile, as well as with creating new relationships with media.

It wasn't without a downside, though. The agency received numerous death threats from Jackson fans, as well as subpoenas from his legal team.

"We all anticipated a different outcome frankly," she said. "I'm still a little bit in shock."

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