As soon as it was confirmed that Prince had died Thursday, the cable networks and broadcast networks decided in one voice “let’s go crazy” with coverage of the musical genius’ life.
It seemed appropriate. Few would argue against it, since TV is often at it best when it serves as our national venue to mourn.
A couple of the networks had advantages.
CNN had in its vault an extensive 1999 interview that Larry King did with Prince, who normally stayed away from long interviews with the media. The network also brought in King Thursday afternoon via the telephone to reflect on the conversation.
In one telling remark in the Prince interview, he told King that he wasn’t much for reminisces and preferred looking ahead.
However, Thursday was a day that demanded reminisces.
CBS had the advantage of carrying the 2007 Super Bowl so it could show extensive clips of Prince’s halftime performance, widely considerably one of the best in Super Bowl history. It ended "The CBS Evenings News with Scott Pelley" with long footage of that performance. The other networks only showed brief clips of the performance, memorable because Prince performed in Miami in the rain.
One person involved with that halftime show said Thursday that Prince’s response to being told it was raining was “make it rain harder.”
NBC had the advantage of showing clips of several interviews that Matt Lauer had done over the years with Prince on “Today.”
Prince’s death led reporters to spice their reports with personal reminisces, which often is frowned upon. It seemed appropriate Thursday.
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer got some social network ridicule for saying that Prince was well known for the classic “Purple Haze” – Jimi Hendrix’s memorable tune – instead of saying “Purple Rain.” You had to feel for the Kenmore native.
One young reporter ended his report for the “CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley” by saying that his first kiss was to a Prince song.
CNN’s Anderson Cooper noted that he rarely becomes nervous around celebrities, but he was nervous when he sat next to Prince at a dinner. He said after that dinner, Prince’s associates would often send him last-minute notices of impromptu performances, something that the musician was known for and had done in Buffalo. It may have sounded to some like bragging. However, Cooper lamented that he couldn’t go because he had a job and added he wished he had more notice.
Lauer similarly said on “Today” this morning that he became nervous when he was around Prince or interviewing him.
Some media organizations understandably were more nervous than others about interjecting conjecture about the cause of Prince’s death.
While CNN’s Cooper was carrying interviews with George Clinton and Spike Lee around 9 p.m. Thursday that celebrated Prince, Megyn Kelly on Fox News was asking medical experts about a TMZ report than Prince had been treated for a drug overdose six days before his death.
The experts on Fox News questioned whether Prince’s plane would have needed to have an emergency landing in Illinois that night to treat the flu, as Prince’s publicist had claimed.
The whole discussion felt a little unseemly, especially considering that Prince had a reputation for clean living and avoiding drugs.
Channel 2 also led its 11 p.m. news with the TMZ report.
Interestingly, “Today,” which is carried by Channel 2, ignored that part of the story this morning, as did other media organizations that decided to wait for the autopsy report.
To some media organizations, waiting in this highly-competitive, 24/7 media world might have seemed well, a little crazy.
Considering people don’t know Prince’s medical history and whether he needed to use prescription drugs, and it was known he had a reputation for avoiding drugs, playing it safe seemed perfectly reasonable even if TMZ eventually turns out to be right.