Wick Communications

Is this Tiger Woods business really newsworthy?

In journalism on April 9, 2010 at 9:54 am

This weekend, the nation turns its tired eyes once again in the direction of a man named Tiger Woods, and not because he is a really good golfer. For those of you who have been living on the moon, Tiger is back and golfing at the Masters this weekend. You may remember Tiger. He’s the guy who brought a little color – pun intended – to the nation’s golf game. He has dominated the sport and is far and away the game’s greatest icon.

Then he got even bigger by doing something that brought him down to size a bit. As everyone knows, Woods broke his marriage vows, was involved in a driving mishap and has gone to rehab for something or other.

Is any of that news?

I think so, but not for the obvious reasons. (For a peek at the 10 dumbest Tiger Woods stories, look no further.) …

In a story in the current American Journalism Review, Washington Post reporter Paul Farhi lambastes the mainstream media for following the lead of the tabloids by printing names of supposed mistresses, rumors about the infamous car crash and all the rest of it. He and the magazine thought so little of the mainstream media’s performance on the story that the cover line on the magazine reads, “Lost in the Woods: Sinking standards, the media, and Tiger Woods.”

I think Farhi is right. Dozens of newspapers simply regurgitated what dubious organizations like TMZ claimed to know. For example, no one really questioned the motives of a porn star who said she had slept with Woods. After all … the tabloids were right about John Edwards, right?

I think the news value isn’t really found in the scandal itself, but rather our culture’s reaction to it.  And I think some of those stories hit home for those of us in community journalism.

  • To what extent does the golf industry rise and fall with its gargantuan star? There may well be a tour event in your neck of the woods. How has the scandal – regardless of the truth of particulars – affected sponsorships, attendance, etc.?
  • What’s the mood at the driving range? Is it suddenly easier to get a tee time at the local par-3?
  • How does publicity like that affect performance? Golfers are notorious for getting the yips every time someone chokes down a cough 100 yards away. What do academics, golf pros and duffers think something of this nature would do to your game? Can anyone quantify the effect? Are some people better able to put that stuff aside?
  • What does our appetite for scandal say about us? Why would anyone care whether a golfer was cheating on his wife?

I think there are a number of interesting questions that were largely ignored by all of us in the wake of it all. As usual, it isn’t the crash that it’s interesting; it’s the response of human beings to the crash. Maybe you can find a story in there somewhere.

Clay

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