Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tiger and the decline of Canadian Journalism

Okay, someone explain this one to me.

I turn on the CTV nightly news and the lead story is Tiger Woods has decided to play golf. Not that he had won anything yet, you understand, but simply that he had shown up in public. I might even get this being an item on the sports news, but the nightly news news? Why is this news? Why is this an item that every Canadian urgently needs to know?

Then we are presented with a parade of experts (mostly other news media staffers -- remember when news reporters used to interview people other than themselves?) who pronounced that American had seen fit to forgive Tiger for his past indiscretions -- which then had to be detailed in case anyone in the country hadn't already heard them ad nausem, which is obviously redundant given that Canadians have to all know this story or why would any of us supposedly be interested enough in it for it to be the lead story? But having established once again that Tiger has been a bad boy, we get to hear that American has forgiven him.

Two things wrong here. First, since when is it up to America to forgive Tiger? Isn't that like his wife's prerogative? Come to that, what does any of his private life have to do with anyone? If it wasn't affecting his golf game, why should any of us -- even actual golf fans -- poke their noses into his family business?

Second and more sociologically significant, who says America has forgiven him? Was there a poll? Because a poll was not referenced here. Just a bunch of sound bites from Tiger's publicists. And it is this very news cast saying how America has forgiven him that gets the word out that it is time to forgive him.

I personally do not feel a couple of months qualifies as the statute of limitations on being an ass, but then I never thought this was my business in the first place. But it is fascinating to see the power of some publicist somewhere to get this wealthy ass a clean slate after only a couple of other months. Clearly the interests of the corporations who had invested in Tiger advertising, and Tiger's own financial interests, out weigh the interests of well, actual natural news reporting.

That this item made the news, let alone positioning as the lead story, seriously undermines the credibility of our national news outlets. This is a more important story than, say, the economic implications of the Canadian dollar reaching par with the American dollar? Clearly this is yet another example of appealing to lowest celebrity scandal-sheet style reporting to raise ratings rather than responsible reporting. That the non-story of this non-event -- a more blatant PR managed newsfeed I cannot imagine -- appeared on our news at all reveals a complete abdication of journalistic responsibilities. Bloggers give more objective reporting and take PR handouts less blatantly than this. I am embarrassed for the stat of Canadian journalism.

The best we can hope for is that someone at CTV took a massive bribe, or thought to curry favor with the corporations that employ Tiger to advertise their products in hopes that some of those advertising dollars would come their way -- because if they were too stupid to figure out they were part of a managed PR exercise, then we are truly on our own....

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