Dimond Back on Jackson’s Case

Jan 12, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Diane Dimond, Court TV’s “Hollywood at Large” anchor and freshly signed analyst for NBC’s “Today,” is back in California. She is on the case in Santa Barbara, where pop star Michael Jackson is due to be arraigned Thursday, Jan. 15, on multiple counts of child molestation.
She has never met Mr. Jackson, but she has made her career covering his legal cases. So she is back on the Jackson trail, stockpiling interviews and working the sources that twice in 10 years have made her the indefatigable go-to reporter when it comes to the explosive Jackson saga.
In August 1993, when she was a reporter for “Hard Copy,” one of the pioneers of “tabloid TV,” she broke the story that Mr. Jackson was being investigated following accusations by two young boys that he had molested them.
On Nov. 18, 2003, Ms. Dimond broke the story on Court TV that authorities were searching Mr. Jackson’s Neverland Ranch near Santa Barbara. She filed her report from outside the gates of the estate.
Ms. Dimond, at age 51, is back where the most vivid chapter in her itinerant career began. “It is a full circle, but I don’t feel like it’s a completed circle yet, because we never went to court last time. We never got the answer to the question, Is Michael Jackson a pedophile?” she said. “We’re going to get an answer this time.
“Over the last 10 years I’ve watched Michael Jackson and his self-destructive behavior and I’ve watched him carve up his face. I’ve watched him continue to flaunt the fact that he sleeps with boys and says it openly on national television. Anyone who covers stories about pedophiles knows they don’t stop. Their behavior gets riskier and riskier and riskier. So in that regard, I am fascinated by how much he allows to be seen by the public. His behavior is so in-your-face-I dare-you-to-stop-me that I think that is going to work against him in the long run.”
Ms. Dimond will not directly say whether she believes Mr. Jackson is guilty. “I can’t say I haven’t come to a decision, “ she said, adding, “But I think I’m very careful about keeping that to myself.” Still, Mr. Jackson’s defense attorney, Mark Geragos, does not return the calls she places every few days.
The occasional Courttv.com message poster will ask, “Does anyone else think Diane Dimond is a little over the top with her reporting on the case? She and DA [Tom] Sneddon have been almost gleeful discussing the case. Diane seems so happy about it all.”
But Ms. Dimond, who chooses not to browse Web site message boards, said, “This time around I’m not getting the Michael Jackson fan club pushing me and shoving me as I’m leaving the [Los Angeles `Hard Copy’] office to get in my car. That got pretty threatening.”
She has seen a man who wears head-to-toe black quietly observing the Jackson media frenzy more than once and believes him to be a private eye working for the Jackson defense team. But she does not think her phones are being tapped as she and her husband, CBS Radio journalist Michael Shoen, suspected when Anthony Pellicano, the private eye to the stars now in prison, was working for Mr. Jackson in ’93.
A decade after the initial Jackson case and the sometimes rowdy coverage of it by “Hard Copy” and “A Current Affair” left the then still relatively prudish mainstream media uncertain what to do, the old stigma against tabloid-style reporting is disappearing.
“Lately, the world has caught up with Diane as a professional,” said her agent and friend of 20 years, Wayne Kabak, William Morris Agency’s co-chief operating officer in New York.
“I did spend a lot of years underemployed, I guess,” said Ms. Dimond, who within hours of breaking the new Jackson story was the hottest property in TV. The next day, she was debriefed on NBC’s “Today” and ABC’s “Good Morning America,” “Access Hollywood,” “Entertainment Tonight,” CNN’s “Larry King Live,” ABC’s “Nightline,” the BBC, a German TV network and KTVK-TV in Phoenix, which had dispatched Mike Watkiss, a Dimond reporter pal from those tabloid days, to the Jackson scene.
“It’s funny how exactly 10 years later, after the first time we really nailed Michael Jackson, at least `tabloid television’ did, it comes back 10 years later with the mainstream media all over it. Now they do it wall to wall,” said Burt Kearns, a mover and shaper at “Current Affair” and “Hard Copy” and the author of the book “Tabloid Baby.” “`Ironic’ is the word.”
Ms. Dimond has talked a couple of times to “Dateline NBC” correspondent Josh Mankiewicz, once a colleague at WCBS-TV, were she jump-started her TV career after spending most of her 20s in radio and was what Mr. Mankiewicz described as “high-mileage, low-maintenance.”
Such stamina will be essential this week if Ms. Dimond is to meet her commitments to Court TV and the outside demands on her time, including book proposals from several publishers.
“I have been writing pages and chapters on this for a long time, just because that’s sort of what I do in my spare time when I can’t be out in the garden. When it gets cold I just sit and write stuff,” Ms. Dimond said.
“When it all started to break again, something just clicked in my head and I just started taking copious notes. I don’t know that anybody is interested in what Diane Dimond was thinking when all this was happening, but I just started writing everything down. It turned out to be a good move.”
No longer will she be torn between “GMA” and “Today.” The NBC morning show has exclusivity on Ms. Dimond during the morning show block under a deal that took effect Jan. 1. The NBC deal was a surprise to many who thought “GMA” was on the verge of clinching a similar deal with Ms. Dimond.
She has caught the brass ring a second time, and she is working it overtime.