Saturday, December 12, 2009

Like with Obama, media slow to turn on Tiger Woods

The media plays favorites. If they like you, you get a different kind of treatment no matter what you do, and the same is true if they don't.

During the Democratic primaries, SNL did a skit satirizing the extent to which the mainstream press was in Obama's pocket, and for the most part the press was pitiful in their coverage of Obama.

Journalist Jonathan Alter actually wrote a piece calling for Hillary Clinton to get out of the race after she landslided Obama in Ohio and Pennsylvania and beat him in Texas. At the time Clinton had landslided Obama in 13 of 15 of the biggest states in the country. The only big state she lost was Obama's home state of Illinois. But Alter said she should get out.

For the first week of the Tiger Woods revelations, the press almost seemed to close ranks behind Woods in the same way.

Yes, the tabloid press has made each new Tiger lady front page news as the number climbed to 9 including two porn stars (it's now 13). But while there's been a lot of reporting, there hasn't been a lot of criticism and it almost seems the media has been more interested in trying to cover for Woods than criticize him.

Donny Deutsche, a man who has his own ad agency and appears regularly on CNBC, was on Larry King a few nights ago actually trying to make the case ( with a straight face) that these revelations would not result in Woods' sponsors leaving him because the scandal made Woods more human and thus enhance his value as a spokesman.

I doubt sincerely that Gillette, a division of Proctor and Gamble is prepared to see their entire Lady Gillette division go down the drain because they think Tiger cheating on his wife with porn stars makes him more human.

An analyst on ESPN, even after the worst had been exposed was still talking about Woods' sponsors staying with him because of what a great golfer he is. The fact that many people and most women look at Woods as, well, a pig, out cheating on his wife with 11 other women while she stayed home with the kids didn't seem to enter his mind.

But that kind of media sympathy could change with the recent 911 call where its apparent that stress over the situation sent Tiger's mother in law to the hospital, although so far that hasnt seemed to dampen media sympathy. An ESPN analyst said on Wednesday he thought all of this would make Woods a better golfer. That's what he said.

As for his sponsors, the only reason there's been no formal announcements regarding Woods being dumped is they just don't want to be drawn into the controversy. Or be seen as piling on. As for playing golf, the source of Woods endorsement deals, given the media circus that would accompany any appearance on a golf course and the ptoential reactions in the galleries, it will be a cold day in August before you see Woods on a golf course again.

The comparisons in media treatment between Woods and Obama are similar, even if the two have avoided criticisms for very different reasons. The media has given Obama a free pass from the Democratic primary through his first year in office, even as he has blundered, proved ineffective in many areas, and has left many of his supporters, and based on the polls, a majority of the country, grumbling. Even so, the press has been largely hands off Obama terms of harsh criticism. The same is true for Woods.

But as approval ratings for both continue to plummet that may change. Because the media always goes where the money is and wants to be seen as being on the side that's most popular. That means Obama's honeymoon could soon be over. It already is for Woods and his wife.. And the press might be next.

UPDATE AS OF 7 p.m. EST: As per my prediction above with regards to Woods not playing golf any time soon, Tiger Woods just issued a statement announcing he is taking an indefinite leave from playing golf. My guess it will be at least one year.

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