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Start the Office Pool

Which stars will stay behind bars?

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A pop-up ad on my computer caught my eye, and got the newsie in me dueling with the evil twin that knows what brings viewers/readers/listeners into the tent.

With photos of Scott Peterson, Martha Stewart, and Kobe Bryant on its flashing graphic, the pop-up asked the question, "Who Will Go To Jail?" I haven't a clue as to what it was selling, but that's surely the question that has news operations, websites, tabloids, and entertainment "journalists" wondering why Santa has come so early.

Add two more entries to that holy triumvirate of famous accused felons: the talented but pathetic Michael Jackson, charged with child molestation, and the talented but arrogant Rush "I Kicked Years of Addiction in Five Weeks" Limbaugh. We half-expected this from Jackson, who has slid from fragile, eccentric brilliance as a pop star into Elvis-esque delusions, it seems.

The gush over Rush by fans and radio affiliates (WBT-AM took out a huge "welcome back" newspaper ad) as he returned to his show after rehab was really something. If he's charged with obtaining piles o'pills or money laundering to pay for them, what will fans do then? "Hang in there, Rush, you look distinguished in orange"?

What this means for us, the home media consumers, is that courtrooms will be the center of the media universe in 2004, as these trials unfold across the country. Defense lawyers and prosecutors are anointed as third-rate pundits again. Court TV is hyperventilating.

We love to celebrate our "heroes" in entertainment, sports, and politics, but there's a twisted part of us that looks at Jackson's mug shot, not once, but twice. We build them up, but seem to enjoy watching the fall almost as much as their rise. Who will go to jail? Started your office pool yet?

NOTHING BUT GRAVY

It's time to single out two efforts from local radio stations (among the many) for the Thanksgiving holiday. WFNZ-FM and the Charlotte Bobcats collaborated on the "Street Turkeys" drive to benefit Community Food Rescue. WBAV DJ Cheryl Patterson raised over $8,000 in her live broadcast last week for the Emergency Winter Shelter. You go, "Chirl Girl"...

Stay tuned.

Shannon Reichley is an independent television producer and former news manager at WBTV. E-mail at Shannon.Reichley@cln.com

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