AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
A caddie walks past an ad showing a photo of Tiger Woods at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks on Monday, where the Chevron World Challenge golf tournament, which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation, will take place starting Wednesday.
It’s the best of New York Times for the sports media.
It’s the worst of Internet times for the sports media.
Tiger Woods, again, has brought us together at this dysfunctional news-gathering divide.
The shelf live of this Woods’ daily story (in the so-called “mainstream” media) and hourly story (in the ever-present “new” media) depends on how much the beast needs, or wants, to be fed.
The public, in Tiger terms, is hungry for meat. How much do they need to consume?
Since the world-wide public figure crashed his car pulling out of his driveway at his Florida home early Friday morning, there’s the fact — he injured himself, appeared to be unconscious for a time, went to the hospital, came back home, has avoided talking to local authorities (not a crime) and said in a statement his back window was smashed out because his wife, Elin, tried to “courageously” rescue him.
More facts: The Florida Highway Patrol is seeking a search warrant for hospital records that would document how he was treated at the hospital — the police want to determine if the injuries Woods had, including facial cuts, came from an auto accident or domestic violence.
There’s also no getting around the fact that two days earlier, the National Enquirer (“Got News? We’ll Pay Big Bucks”) reported that Woods had an affair with a woman, who has since hired attorney Gloria Allred to defend her in the court of public opinion and beyond.
The Enquirer is a national magazine that while focusing on celebrity gossip, has been right at a low percentage of the time enough to make everyone else now pay attention and consider it as a legitimate news source. Sometimes.
Jumping to conclusions from Point A to Point Z, independent reports on the Internet do more than imply there’s much more behind this.
The mainstream media has reported on what’s been reported, trying to at least be “for the record” without giving it any validation. Yet.
It puts the journalists who are skeptical, yet act responsible, on one side working both against and with those who are cynical, and act on their own behalf, trying to poke the sleeping Tiger for more information — especially since he’s now said he’ll bail out on attending his own charity event at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks to lick his wounds.
Holding the media up for examination isn’t news, as we try to define again which media sources are more useful and which is more of a nuisance. But we watch with interest as the public is less likely to make a delineation. It’ll buy the ice cream from the stand that’s within its reach more likely than wait for the next batch to be made with more care and quality control.
We find ourselves amused, and confused, in which direction to turn for accurate information. Who wins in the long run — the short-term satisfaction instant sources or the ones established for having the patience to see how things shake out before reporting on what’s known and what isn’t?
Our go-to source in many case, the New York Times, sums things up well on its website in its “Leading Off” blog (linked here) – again, blurring the line between what’s a mainstream source here and what’s another Internet novelty.
It surveys the landscape with links to those sites that are trying to fill in the so-called blanks. It even offers up a great Twitter-land take: Someone pointed out that Woods was “a mailbox and a parked car away from the Tiger Slam” after hitting a fire hydrant and a neighbor’s tree.
Which means, of course, this will run the course of Leno / Letterman / Kimmel / Conan.
It will lead to Golf.com (the main site of Golf magazine, a company that’s part of the Sports Illustrated family) to not only try to cover this in a responsible way but also link to a story called “Celebs weigh in on Tiger crash,” with a list of Twitter responses from those like Seth Meyers, Rainn Wilson and LPGA player Erica Blasberg (“tmz.com thanks for bringin us the real dirt!”) because, apparently, we need to know this.
There seems to be no line blurred when it comes to identifying news after it happens. The Associated Press is presenting a copy of a photo from TMZ.com to all its mainstream media clients today because, to tell the truth, it’s the only one who seems to have a photo of the damaged vehicle. It even comes with the strange dual photo credit of AP and TMZ. Partners in covering a crime. When it’s beneficial to both.
In the most recent past, it would have been the sports-talk radio shows driving this. Now those hosts simply pick and choose which website or blog they tend to align with and hash it out in the court of public opinion.
Again, the mainstream media types, using whatever technology is available to us, are left trying to act as impartial artibrators and clean up everyone else’s messes.
The challenge to the consumer is not just who to believe, but what you want to believe, and why you choose to believe something.
We’ll do our best to convey the information in a responsible fashion. Don’t mistake speed for inadequacy.
Those who want to doubt Tiger’s story will always be there. As a public relations move, it does his image no good to stand behind statements on his own website, or those offered by his representatives.
It put an air of dishonesty out there. There’s no transparency to this. Yet.
If you’re to believe Tiger as a family man, a product endorser or a legendary golfer, the message should come from him. As Sports Illustrated senior writer Joe Posnanski wrote on Golf.com today: “This is the first time in a long time that something big about Tiger Woods has been revealed without Tiger Woods officially endorsing it.”
Human nature will only fuel this story. And as Tiger himself admitted in some kind of statement over the last days, he’s only human himself.
The funny thing about golf: It’s the only sport where you’re supposed to call penalties on yourself. It’s a gentleman’s game that’s built on character and trust.
This isn’t a public image problem he can just swipe his American Express card at and make go away.
The media must keep trying to report what’s accurate. All we can do is hope you wait for the process to take place, rather than try to cut ahead of the line and get a better tee time.
Until then, we’ll keep an eye on the newschopper trying to follow the
slow moving white Ford Bronco black Escallade as its towed to a local repair shop for further investigation.