Guest post by Lia LoBello, Peppercom
Like many Americans, I woke up Friday, November 28 basking in a post-Turkey Day glow. I wanted nothing more than the simple pleasure of flipping on the TV and enjoying the sweet sound of a billion reporters screaming about Black Friday shopping lines.
I was denied. Instead, the media was beside itself, breathlessly reporting that Tiger Woods had crashed his car into a fire hydrant and a tree on his own property “This is not news,” I cried to my family. “Who cares about this?” My dad, as big a golf enthusiast as they come, simply shrugged. Little did I know, it was only the tip of the iceberg.
The media cared plenty. The reporting continued, largely unsubstantiated, for five solid days until Tiger released a statement on Wednesday, December 2, apologizing for his “transgressions.” His carefully worded statement neither confirmed nor denied a reported affair – supposedly the cause of a fight between Tiger and his wife causing him to flee his home and crash – and instead, asked for privacy.
In the days leading up to the statement, I found myself trying to answer the million dollar question for public relations professionals watching this episode unfold – did Tiger wait too long to talk? I say no.
By not indulging the media feeding frenzy desperately searching for a fact amidst heaps of speculation, Tiger exposed the 24/7 media cycle for what it is – a shoot first, substantiate later circus that disregards objectivity in favor of ratings and which reports rumors carefully couched as to appear real.
“Will sponsors stand behind him?” they begged to know. “Will fans ever forgive him?” The answer, and no surprise here, appears to be yes.
Reading through the comments on TigerWoods.com, numbering more than 9,000 by late Wednesday night, a relatively mixed bag of benign “We’re behind you!” and “How could you do this?” comments exist. And according to Zeta Interactive via the Wall Street Journal, Tiger's online positive approval rating dipped 23 percentage points to 71 percent. With all due respect to Zeta Interactive – those metrics mean nothing to the average American and further, are higher than the current presidential approval rating. Additionally, Nike, Gatorade and EA Sports all released statements saying their relationship with Tiger was unaffected.
Thanks to a previously spotless reputation and the exaggerated reaction of media, I think Tiger’s fans will quickly forgive and forget his “sins.” What we shouldn’t be so quick to forgive is the media’s inundating of our "news" with pointless discussion and debate about a celebrity’s possible dirty laundry. To think of how we could all benefit if the same effort was employed for actual news – say the ongoing war in Afghanistan, the recent New York Senate gay marriage ban or healthcare. Perhaps we should start asking our Senators and soldiers to get handy with a five iron.