O.J. Changed Media

So, while apparently taking a depature from his quest for “the real killers,” O.J. Simpson is back as a defendant and back in the media spotlight.

Before you start thinking this is another post decrying the media for its celebrity obsession, not so fast. I was a part of the problem during the OJTV days of 1994 and 1995. While at two different TV stations during that time, a large part of my every day was spent tracking the case and boiling it down to a local news audience that ranged from the riveted to the disgusted.

In thinking back to that time over the past couple of days, I discovered a few simple ways in which the Simpson case changed media.

1) O.J. Killed CNN

CNN “broke format” during the Simpson trial – abandoning its newscasts for live trial coverage. The network’s ratings, prestige and ability to cover daily news never recovered after the verdict, paving the way for Fox News and others to make big dents in CNN’s audience and brand.

2) O.J. Created CSI

DNA evidence? The jury, inconceivably looking back today, didn’t understand it. But the nation was intrigued. And CBS got itself a cash cow prime time franchise.

3) O.J.’s Talking Heads Still Gab

The “legal analyst” became a TV staple before and during the trial. Once the domain of law professors giving soundbites, now virtually every broadcast outlet has one. And the legal “stars” born during the trial – Greta Van Sustern, Cynthia McFadden, Jeffrey Toobin and Jack Ford – just to name a few – went from attorney to analyst to anchor or correspondent. Not bad for people who never went to “J School.” Instead, “O.J. School” was their ticket.