Publishers Pull the Plug on O.J. Simpson Book

Over the past few days, it has been reported that numerous FOX affiliates refused to air the interview with O.J. Simpson scheduled to air in support of the book, "If I Did It". In reaction to this boycott by affiliates and outrage from the general public, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation has pulled the project all together and is no longer going to publish Simpson's latest money-making ploy.

According to an article in the L.A. Times,

News Corp. executives said that by Monday viewers' protests had reached the tipping point as affiliates and key advertisers were openly rebelling against the program. By Monday morning, more than a dozen of its roughly 200 affiliates had rejected the program, and News Corp. received indications more were likely to follow.

The L.A. Times reported,

"I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project," News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch said in a press release Monday. "We are sorry for any pain this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson."

I don't think that anyone would disagree with Murdoch that "this was an ill-considered project". Yet, I am baffled that it took the publisher this long to figure that out. The media normally panders successfully to the public's craving for the sensational. However, in this instance, the poor taste of the American people was severely overestimated.

While he was acquitted in the criminal trial, by and large Simpson was deemed guilty by the public. With no career to speak of, this new book and promotional interview was nothing more than a classless attempt to make money. Yet, despite any opinion of Simpson's motive, what motive did the publisher have? They must have believed that the public's yen for salacious tales would have made a book where Simpson outlines how he would have killed his wife, you know if he had done it, would have yielded enough profit to risk the backlash.

I must admit, as repulsed as I was by the book, I too underestimated the American public, and did not foresee this kind of widespread revolt. Business is driven by money. It is a fact of our capitalist economy. But I would expect publishers to examine the merit of content not merely the bottom line. While I am relieved that the plug has been pulled on the project, it seems to be too little too late. The fact that such a book was ever accepted and attempted to be promoted leaves me disillusioned.

In this instance, it is the advertising world that has come out ahead. The lack of interest by advertisers to run ads during the televised interview led to many affiliates pulling the program. According to the L.A. Times article,

Jones, who planned to run public service announcements with the Simpson program instead of commercials, said: "Can you imagine any advertiser that would want to be associated with something like this? I mean, I don't think a porno site would want to get involved."

Although the book has disappeared, the image of ReganBooks/HarperCollins has been stained by its affiliation. As disgusted as I was with the concept of this book, I was not surprised that Simpson himself would want to pursue such a project. As proud as I am that advertisers, FOX affiliates, and the public have risen up against the project, I am disappointed in an industry that would even consider publishing such a book, let alone get this far.

Yet, is this censorship? Regardless of the public opinion of O.J. Simpson and a book in which he would more or less confess to murder, should the book have the right to exist?

"I am not a fan of censorship, but this was so hurtful and in such bad taste," said Laurie Levenson, a Loyola University law professor who served as an analyst for CBS Evening News and many other media organizations on the Simpson trials. "It was picking the scab off a wound. From the public point of view, everyone wants O.J. to go away."

There is still one bright light left in this saga. As ethically wayward as the publishers might have been, at least they are environmentally friendly,

"There were some books that already had been sent to bookstores, and they are being recalled," said Andrew Butcher, News Corp. spokesman. "The books will be recycled."

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