Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tiger Woods proves why journalists are useless

As the storm around Tiger Woods raged and more and more revelations about his various affairs kept coming out, the usual suspects gathered in the press and on cable TV to give us their educated, objective and insightful opinions about Woods future which, in every case amounted to denial, journalistic hero jock worship, fawning self-delusion and predictions that missed by a mile. Not dissimilar to the way the press handled Barrack Obama during the Democratic primaries.

The networks added to the Woods fiasco by interrupting regularly scheduled programs to broadcast Woods' first press conference live as if it was an event of world importance.

Which has been one of the problems with the news media the last 20 years. Trivializing what matters and overplaying things that don't, especially when it comes to sex whether its in sports or politics.

With Woods dropping out of the Players tournament after not being even remotely competitive, and missing the cut altogether in his previous tournament, Woods has proved all the journalistic predictions and opinions all wrong. As usual.

Mike Lupica, ad man Donny Deutsch, on MSNBC, ESPN analysts, even political commentators like Ed Schultz, all tried downplaying the Woods revelations of the serial cheating that wrecked his marriage and turned his image upside down, and predicted it would have no affect on Woods at all either on the golf course or in his endorsement deals.

Deutsch, from the very beginning not only predicted none of Woods' sponsors would leave him, he actually said the revelations would make Woods an even more attractive endorser. How much consideration he gave to Gillette's slogan " the best a man can get" how it would play with Woods Im not sure. But Gillette dropped him within days.

But they were all wrong, not just Deutsch. But not just wrong -- they were wrong in the face of every shred of common sense that said they couldn't possibly be right.

Lupica's grand prediction in a Sunday column was that when Woods finally returned to golf would "be back better than ever". Not exactly.

Woods finished fourth in the Masters but, never threatened for the lead and then missed the cut entirely in his second start in a non-major, and now dropped out in the third round of the Players,ostensibly with a neck injury but so far back of the leaders that during the entire tournament he never got a minute of television time. My guess is the neck injury is an excuse and he dropped out to avoid further embarrassment. At the time he withdrew he was listed at 45th.

According to golf writer Mick Elliott, Woods in an interview two days ago proclaimed himself physically fit and never said a word about the neck injury that he is now saying he sustained weeks ago. Woods was quoted as saying he was "absolutely 100%". So whether the media will buy Woods explanation as to why he withdrew and why he played so poorly or look deeper remains to be seen.

When the scandal first broke, Donny Deutsch on MSNBC predicted that Woods wouldn't lose any endorsement contracts at all but Woods lost almost all of them except Nike within the first week of the scandal and none of the sponsors who dropped him are showing any interest in having him back..

Most of the journalists defending Woods ( from what they were defending, its hard to say, but Schultz exhorted Woods to "hang in there") sounded like lawyers for the Vatican trying to defend the Catholic Church against the sex abuse scandals. How do you defend Woods against the indefensible? Because he was the greatest golf pro of his time? HIs marriage came apart publicly because he had cheated with porn starlets and nightclub hostesses, sent embarrassing text messages, paid off some of them ( Rachel Uchitel reportedly was paid in 8 figures to keep quiet) became a world wide joke and that was supposed to have no affect? When professional athletes play on a level that requires the focus of a brain surgeon?

For the record, Woods shot the worst back nine of his career ( 43) in missing the cut two weeks ago for the first time in 5 years. And he was so far back in the Players you wouldnt know he playing from the TV coverage. There was nothing to cover.

The real importance of all this is not so much about Tiger Woods as it is about the massive decline and deterioration of the news media as a whole, the people in it and the way most of them do their jobs.If plumbers had the same degree of professionalism as journalists we'd all be walking around knee deep in water. Instead we're drowning in somethng else.

For too long it hasn't mattered in the media whether or not a journalist or commentator had any real insights, made predictions that turned out to be true, or showed he or she knew what they were talking about.

They could make any prediction, any pronouncement, make any statement, and have everything be wrong every time with no consequences. Whether its journalists or politicians there is no accountability. Or credibility. And like the media handling of the Woods scandal and the predictions and pontificating, based more on their own wishful thinking than anything real, the news media's coverage of events that matter more to the country, gets that wrong more than they get it right. ( Iraq anyone?)

What's worse, they don't care so there is no hope in the near future it will get any better. Its all about money for them. Which is ratings which equals advertising dollars. Fox News for example, the most brazenly dishonest, simply tells their audience what they want to hear even if what they want isn't the truth.

The other news outlets try to be the anti-Fox, often shilling for Obama, neglecting the truth when its something less than flattering for him and ignoring incovenient facts which puts Obama in a bad light in much the same way Fox invents "facts" to put Obama in a bad light.

In the end Tiger Woods problems and how he was covered are small potatoes compared to war, who gets healthcare, unemployment, climate control, immigration reform, financial reform and who gets to decide these things. But the incompetence and wrong headedness of the mainstream media whose job is, as the Founders intended, to inform the electorate, is not small potatoes.

Maybe some day journalists or analysts who are hired to give their opinions or report the facts will be hired based on how accurate they are and how good they are at what they do. But for now what we saw with the coverage of Tiger Woods and how reality has turned out to be the opposite of all the predictions, is what we get every day on matters of much more importance.

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