So have you heard about Tiger Woods?


James Poniewozik, rapidly becoming one of my favorite bloggers, recently posted about the respectable media’s response to the recent Tiger Woods frenzy. And I think what he has to say is pretty darn fascinating.

Poniewozik says:

“…the “serious” news outlets can’t just wholeheartedly revel in the human filth of the story. Not just for high-minded reasons, either: there are cold business reasons. As with so many things today, traditional media are caught between a newfangled audience, with new expectations, and an old-fashioned audience that expects old-fashioned standards of propriety.”

Poniewozik hits it right on the money. Newspapers and broad magazines (Time or Newsweek) attempt to cater to all audiences. In years past, this wasn’t a hard task with the limited ways of receiving information. In the past, a story this thick with rumor would have broken much slower, with only facts being reported instead of a feeding frenzy of speculation.

Poniewozik points out the essential problem here:

“Fail to satisfy the newfangled group, and they’ll quickly click elsewhere; fail to satisfy the old-fashioned group (who don’t want celebrity news on the front page, or news coverage with a point-of-view), and they cancel their subscriptions.”

Later in the post, he mentions the problem of money that newspapers face. After all, when people want to read about Michael Jackson’s death, why not plaster your paper with it? (What possible connection does Michael Jackson have with Duluth, Minnesota? Seriously! And notice how Fawcett is just sort of shoved in the corner).

So what do you guys think? Is it ethical to plaster your front page with sensationalist news, or do you only print the facts at risk of losing money?



8 responses to “So have you heard about Tiger Woods?

  1. Sure it’s okay…if you’re the National Enquirer. Publications like that are glorified gossip columns, and everybody knows it. I really don’t think anyone takes them seriously, and they don’t care that it’s fabricated.

    People know it’s fake, but it makes a good read. No harm, no foul. When magazines like Time and Newsweek pull crap like this, it makes us all look bad. It all goes back to journalistic integrity. There’s no reason they can’t tell the story with just the facts.

    You know what they say about assumptions. When you assume, it makes an…*ahem* Well, you know. You just shouldn’t do it. This is why.

    What they did to Farrah was terrible. Patrick Swayze, too. On the other hand, at least they got to go out peacefully.

  2. If you want your publication to be taken seriously, print the facts. Leave the rumors to the less credible magazines and newspapers that need them to stay afloat. If your readers expect the truth then don’t drive them away with sensationalism.

  3. I agree with Lindsay. Newspapers, especially, don’t have the luxury of dividing their readership into the “new” and the “old” – because doing so will polarize the publication itself.

    Instead, providing a consistently factual publication will inevitably be received more positively than scattering rumors throughout.

  4. Ann Schnoebelen

    I agree with Nate and I’d like to think the old adage about quality over quantity applies to news. But I worry that when things are so fast-paced in this profession and the world in general, that’s not always what happens. And it’s also about making money- it’s the news BUSINESS after all. If Newsweek hadn’t afforded Michael’s death (what we consider to be) more than sufficient coverage, would they have sold any copies or gotten any hits online?

    What happens if plain ol’ boring facts aren’t what people want to pay to access anymore?

  5. OK, confession time. Over the weekend, I read the MSM’s coverage of Woods. They repeatedly alluded to mysterious “rumors” and “speculation” but never explicitly stated what those rumors and speculation were. (And they shouldn’t have.)

    So what did I do? Swear you won’t tell anybody? I went to TMZ. (Really, I did. You may now revoke my journalist credentials. Afterwards, I felt like I needed a shower.)

    I’m not defending tabloid, celebrity-driven rumor-mongering that masquerades as journalism. But you have to admit, there is a demand for it. And it does pay the bills. If it didn’t pay — if people didn’t read or watch it — the media wouldn’t do it. We have only ourselves to blame.

    (And don’t forget: It was the National Enquirer that broke the Jesse Jackson and John Edwards “love child” stories.… Even a blind hog roots up an acorn once in a while.)

    • I’m sure lots of people do the same thing, Professor Van Wyke.

      However, isn’t TMZ the place for those things? Do real “news” publications have to delve deep into events like Tiger Woods to compete, or is it more important that they cover news like politics and world events? That is, world events that effect large groups of people, not gated communities…

  6. Tiger who? What’s going on?…

    Just kidding! I have to admit, I actually read about the Tiger Woods “alleged scandal” thing on TMZ, or one of those sites, too. It’s crazy how much of a demand there is for it. I also tweeted about it off and on for almost a week. People really get wrapped up into this sort of thing, but I still say to just print the facts.

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