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The Mainstream News Industry is like Show Biz

O.J. Simpson, my exclusive television interview, had me at Rockingham for about an hour after the criminal and civil trials.  His incarceration, acquittal, and liability for double-murder were up for discussion; but not until he taught me a thing or two.

Stay tuned.  More on that later.  Let’s change the channel.

One time.  That’s how many times the man known as ‘Dad’ has called me in the last 4 years.  Please know that was only after my husband persistently tracked him down through several attempts.  He’s also a nominal grandfather to our child, Charlotte Elizabeth.  

Stay tuned.  More on that later.  Let’s change the channel.

When we deal in facts, it’s a non-emotional process that simply states the matter at hand.  As a seasoned television journalist, I’ve spent countless hours telling these facts in a cohesive manner in honing my craft to communicate with the viewers at home.  

Yet, it’s my very first exclusive interview, which was with the infamous O.J. Simpson.  Most often people want to hear about my experience sitting across from him and usually in full detail.  Immediately, they want to know if it was after the murder trial.  My response is yes and also the civil trial.  

I went to work in this industry to make a difference serving others and even earned a degree in broadcast journalism from Pepperdine University.  It’s where my adjunct professors taught me how to present myself in the real world, where I did my first live shot on television for the Malibu campus news, and where I sat down in my first news studio.

I thrived being surrounded by excellence in this community of believers with tremendous academic professors who challenged us to thoroughly understand the media industry from every angle and to understand the greats who had come before us.  

Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, and Dan Rather name a few.  Credible voices who simply communicated the facts in uncertain times.  Clear and concise.  They spoke with a weight of truth and morality and had personas to give us a sense of stability while they simply told us the events that unfolded from the day.  We came away stronger knowing, not torn down.

I went to work on Good Morning Malibu as a reporter!  It was a television program already running on campus and I began reporting on important issues in Malibu that affected the community and surrounding areas.  I had learned on every front to be objective.  No opinions allowed.

Lights, camera, action was the presentation of it all, but the content in the newsroom is what created the newscast itself and that meant fact-finding and accurate storytelling.  Fair and balanced.  I learned the meaning of the Associated Press as well.

Please understand I was a transfer student and not a news junky.  Why did I not seem to fit in this dynamic?  I was attending Seaver College on an eighty percent academic scholarship, then I obtained a Broadcasting Scholarship and Faculty / Staff Scholarship.  I later learned from my mother-in-law, the great Betty Irene Thomas, “You are not supposed to fit in, when you were made to stand out!”

While on the 405 Freeway, my husband and I began to dialogue about this matter in more detail.  We came to the conclusion to launch my own show like The Barbara Walters Special; I enjoyed watching commentary from those who covered more of the full story or legal angles such as Greta, or Geraldo.  

Tom had the idea for me to interview O.J. and a light bulb went off in my head, that’s it!  Then, folks will be interested in tuning into my program and I can march to my own drum.  He asked what I would call it and we attempted to launch The Mindy Thomas Special.  

I did not consider any obstacles, but I merely believed this would happen.  Then, I hoped.  My husband and I got in our car that cost less than a thousand dollars as we were both students; Tom was earning his MBA at the Graziadio School of Business.  

I won’t mention how Tom and I got engaged during the Summer of 1994; nor will I mention how his father was arrested about six months into our engagement; nor how his trial lasted until a day within of the verdict of the O.J. Simpson case.  We married 2 months later.

Stay tuned.  More on that later.  Let’s change the channel.

We put the college VHS camera, a tripod, and a new tape in the car and we headed over to Brentwood as we lived in the San Fernando Valley.  But, before we went there we had to first go by Nicole’s former address at Gretna Green.  O.J. had told me face to face how his wife, quick correction x-wife, lived only 6 blocks away from him.  

We charted the path to the infamous Rockingham driveway, which is a very quick tote, and I approached the home.  Bodyguards surrounded the place and we staked out and bought lemonade from Sydney's, O.J. 's daughter, lemonade-stand for all of the reporters.

This was the most televised news story on the face of the planet at the time because of the media coverage (Billion Dollar Industry) regarding the former NFL player (Billion Dollar Industry) and the Hollywood celebrities involved (Billion Dollar Industry).  

We need only to look at the reality show The Kardashians, spurred on by the influence of this murder trial and cameras in the courtroom, to remember their dad Robert who was one of the attorneys on The Dream Team.

Our culture is so easily influenced by the mainstream media and what direction these moguls want to point us in as journalists can be fighting for the real story, you must understand there are serious politics at work here and it can all get quite intense especially under deadline pressures each and every day.

I remember almost taking an internship at CNN as it was so amazing to walk through the building and see Larry King’s studio, but the timing was off, so I went over to CBS off Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood to do my internship.  One guy was known for getting so stressed that his ears began bleeding.  He worked at the assignment desk, which is where the action hits first.

The news team consists of directors, producers/editors, field reporters, and newscasters in the studio and there are makeup and hair artists.  But, the executives, or higher-ups, oversee how all of this is being managed and remember the advertisers must be kept happy to an extent.  

You can dig up an important lead, research it and do all of the leg work with interviews and telling the story in its gritty raw form only to be told ‘No, it needs to be said this way!’  I’ve had many different experiences to pull from.  Can you imagine all of the egos in the atmosphere asserting themselves?  It’s a wonder anything could get done sometimes.

I watched as the news industry changed as President Obama expressed the need for cameras to be in newsrooms across the country.  I also watched as the overseas news bureaus closed down and I began to see how the national news programs were actually created.  It was also a time when the big three networks were fading out of mainstream influence while 24-hour news began taking off with the cameras in the courtroom creating what some folks call ‘The O.J. Church’.  If worship is what we meditate and ponder, then that seemed quite fitting and O.J. had been taught since his youth how to do in front of the camera.

I worked on stories from drug busts, criminal courtroom proceedings to gang shootings, and beyond.  It’s the dues that reporters pay to simply tell the facts: 18-hour workdays, on-call during the night, and receiving constructive criticism for those who are not so eloquent at times.

It’s called the Hard News for a reason and quite frankly I was dismayed at the lack of compassion for real people in a fallen world from some of my colleagues.  I began to think if only I could be superficial, then I could finally breakthrough, yet I was not willing to sacrifice my heart being hardened to life.  Keeping up appearances is just not my bag and let me shoot you straight:  in no way was I willing to be a talking monkey instilling fear in the lives of those Americans I wanted to serve.  Sensationalism out too.

The news industry is also much like show business;  feast or famine.  No matter how much fan mail, or how much I’d help the ratings go to number one, it was hard work on every level if you want to do it right.  Perhaps, like anything, but with your hair disheveled and makeup melting off your face.  I finally got a top agent in the media industry, but that’s another story entirely and so is the danger that would be ahead for me.

Back to O.J.  After at least a dozen attempts, I believed today was the day so I knocked on the gate after a brief discussion with the bodyguard.  The Gate Opened.  We set up shop on the front porch.  O.J. was the director, and I began the probe of my very first on-camera, or televised interview, exclusive.

I passed my mic to this well-groomed television personality of sorts and he looked at it like you’ve got to be kidding me, so the whole thing could have easily been shut down time and time again.  Tom was doing the camera work and let’s just say I remember O.J. giving that up and down look of discontented compliance.  I’m not sure if that was because Tom had the red light on before O.J. said it was time, or if O.J. wanted to discard him for his own purposes.  I observed very quickly that O.J. was the one in charge of how things went with himself and his property.  He made a point to keep unashamedly asking my husband, “Are you sure she’s married?”  

The Mindy Thomas Special aired in Malibu on Channel 3.  

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