How Coordinator Orchestrates Jackson Coverage


Peter Shaplen, the son and grandson of distinguished journalists, is a former Bay Area television news director who is the media coordinator at the Michael Jackson trial, the Los Angeles Times reports. Paid by a consortium of networks, He funnels information and runs interference among the courts, law enforcement agencies, and scores of journalists, delicately maneuvering, making sure the “media beast is sated” each day while ensuring compliance with (or battling) the sometimes rigid decorum orders of Judge Rodney S. Melville. Shaplen performed the same task at the Scott Peterson murder trial, earning high marks.

Shaplen helped negotiate a “media impact fee” required by the county of Santa Barbara, assigned courtroom seats for reporters and artists, and helped a reporter on deadline recall an exact quote from the day’s testimony. “I think what makes Peter different is that it has gotten so complicated and he has been able to juggle everything from lost and found to helping shape media motions that go before the court,” says Jennifer Siebens, West Coast bureau chief for CBS and Shaplen’s de facto boss. “He handles editorial and logistical concerns. He is focused and he is very, very fair.” “I don’t think we can make this trial high justice,” Shaplen says. “It’s still a pedophilia case, which leaves you feeling just a little icky. But this county has spent 12 years in one fashion or another prosecuting this individual. This trial is costing taxpayers well into six figures … the media’s contribution will be in the six figures. So excuse me, but if you don’t want to cover the story for the importance, or to illustrate the legal process, and almost the majesty of that, then maybe you’ve missed something.”


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