Tiger is the Biggest News of the Day? Howl!

This is a HOWL at the Daily News, for its cover story on Saturday, February 20th. But it is also a HOWL at every newspaper and TV station that ran a variation of the same story. The story, if it can be called that, was about Tiger Woods’ press conference the previous day, in which he apologized for being unfaithful to his wife.

The cover of the Daily News showed a picture of Woods’ face, eyes closed, looking ashamed. At the bottom of the page, they printed the words “Call Me Irresexible.” Setting aside the questionable newsworthiness of the subject, that headline consists of adding the word ‘sex’ into a different word, to make a completely incoherent word. I guess the idea is that sex sells, even if it’s completely out of place. The cover could have read “Sex—Sorry” and had the same meaning.

And as for the news peg, I understand that this is a big deal for people who are following the story. But this is a classic pseudo-event. The televised conference was promoted by Woods’ PR people. The media were not allowed to ask questions. This was, in effect, the easiest story to write. The Philadelphia Daily News actually showed a relative amount of restraint in comparison with the New York tabloids. The first 5-6 pages of the NY Daily News and The Post were devoted to analyzing the golfer’s statement, his sincerity, and his contrition. But the Philadelphia paper still put his image on the cover, feeding the notion that Woods’ sexual exploits and their consequences are the biggest news of the day.

The article itself is relatively straightforward. It describes the scene (already shown continuously on TV the day before), repeats his words (printed in probably every newspaper in the country), and speculates about Woods’ future in golf.

Daily News writer Mike Kern seems to want to justify the media’s attention to the issue, but he offers no compelling reason why the conference is being covered:

“I still believe it is right to shield my family from the spotlight,” he said. “They did not do these things. Whatever my wrongdoings, please leave my wife and kids alone.”

If only it were that simple.

“I need to regain my balance, so I can save the things that are most important to me: my marriage and my children,” Woods said. “There are many people who believed in me. Today, I want to ask for your help. I ask you to find room in your heart to one day believe in me again.”

In the meantime, the process will continue. And the entire world will monitor the progress.

Why isn’t it that simple? Kern doesn’t explain what is complicated about it. And his last line makes the assumption that the whole world will monitor Woods’ progress because we want to. But it was media outlets like his that uncovered and followed the issue from the beginning. My guess is that a good number of people who know about Tiger Woods’ personal life, which is probably most of America by now, would much rather not.

I can only speak for myself, but I know others must agree. This is not important news. This is voyeurism and schadenfreude. It should be left to the gossip magazines.

– Jared Brey


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