Who is to blame for the media feeding frenzy that occurred after the single-car accident this weekend involving Tiger Woods? The media? Tiger’s public relations team?
Sure, the public was all too eager to jump to salacious conclusions about Woods and no one doubts that the National Enquirer was selling well before Thanksgiving.
However, in reflecting on the story of the Thanksgiving weekend, I can’t help but feel that the media and Tiger’s public relations team dropped the ball.
Yes, any information concerning Tiger Woods will have some shelf-life but the shelf-life of the “accident” can’t be explained solely by the celebrity of Woods.
The media failed to give the public all of the information necessary to properly put the story in context.
The public relations team for Tiger reacted slowly and giving us a detached statement didn’t help.
The articles from the traditional media outlets informed us concerning the vehicle make, what the vehicle struck, the skid mark in the driveway, and that two windows were broken on the Cadillac Escalade by Tiger’s wife, Elin, swinging a golf club.
The articles told us that Tiger was bleeding from the lips, had blood in his mouth, and was drifting in and out of consciousness.
We were also told that the accident occurred at 2:25 a.m. in the morning. The police reported that Elin was over Tiger and that she appeared to be frantic.
Have you already formed an opinion as what happened? It’s clear that this was a domestic dispute that turned violent, right?
Do you hear or read anything about Florida law?
Florida law requires a police officer to make a written report concerning domestic abuse whether or not an arrest is made. See Florida law 741.29: Domestic violence, investigation of incidents, notice to victims of legal rights and remedies; reporting.
Florida law requires the police officer to include within the report: 1) a description of physical injuries observed, 2) if no one is arrested, an explanation for why no arrest was made and 3) a statement that indicates that the officer provided a copy of the legal rights and remedies notice.
The report prepared by the police officer must be given to the officer’s supervisor and filed consistent with how data on domestic violence cases is compiled by the jurisdiction.
If Florida law required the responding officers to the Woods residence to file such a report if they had probable cause to believe domestic abuse occurred, wouldn’t the absence of such a report be important for the public to know? Why was the above information omitted from the numerous stories posted by the traditional media outlets?
In fairness to the traditional media outlets you likely saw the statement from patrol spokesman Sgt. Kim Montes, “Right now we believe this is a traffic crash. We don’t believe it is a domestic issue.”
The problem however was that there was no supplemental information provided for readers to put Sgt. Montes statement in context.
The slow response from the public relations team of Woods allowed this story to spin out of control.
We received a tweet from a member of Tiger’s management team to the media stating that “He is fine” less than twelve hours after the accident. Yet, no official statement was posted by Woods until 48 hours later.
Why did it take so long to get the statement on the Internet?
A public relations group working for a minor public figure could be forgiven for such a delay but not a group working for the world’s most visible sports personality who reportedly has earned over a billion dollars in less than fifteen years on the PGA tour.
In that 48-hour vacuum how many people went to a TMZ or to the National Enquirer Internet site to read about an alleged affair involving Tiger? How many people spoke to a neighbor or friend about what they heard through the grapevine?
Each passing hour without an official statement from Tiger allowed the rumor mill to tarnish the Tiger brand.
Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people are now aware that there are rumors of infidelity concerning Tiger. While not everyone will conclude the worst about Tiger, there is no doubt that many will now believe the gossip about Tiger is gospel.
The oddly worded statement issued by Tiger did not extinguish this story and this story will likely live a few more news cycles than needed. Tiger’s statement provides,
"This situation is my fault, and it’s obviously embarrassing to my family and me. I’m human and I’m not perfect. I will certainly make sure this doesn’t happen again."
Is Tiger never going to drive a car again? Assuming he hasn’t sworn off driving cars, how can anyone say that they are not perfect and human while saying they will never have an accident again?
Why not simply say, “I will certainly be a more careful driver in the future.”
Of course, conspiracy theorists will infer that he is not talking about driving when he states that he is going to sure this doesn’t happen again.
Then Tiger’s statement tries to hide behind the word “privacy.”
Specifically, the statement says “This is a private matter and I want to keep it that way...But, I would also ask for some understanding that my family and I deserve some privacy no matter how intrusive some people can be.”
Can any matter be “private” when the police are called to investigate an accident? No. Any suggestion to the contrary is ridiculous.
However, just because the police investigation is not private does not mean that the circumstance of the accident is a major story worthy of public consumption
Woods’ statement could have given us a reason to view his accident as a story worthy of nothing more than a passing interest.
Why not simply say, “I don’t have anything further to say about the accident...I and my family would appreciate not receiving any questions about the accident. I feel embarrassed about the accident and would prefer not to dwell on it.”
Most people have been involved in a fender bender. How many of us having spent more than five minutes talking about our car accident? Case closed, nothing more than a boring fender bender.
Further, by Woods stating that he didn’t want to dwell on his bad driving which he felt was embarrassing would humanize Woods.
Finally, the statement fails to take the right tone concerning rumors circulating after the accident. The statement reads,
"Although I understand there is curiosity, the many false, unfounded and malicious rumors that are currently circulating about my family and me are irresponsible."
Why use the emotionless word “irresponsible?” Using the word “irresponsible” sounds as if it came from someone who is not the subject of the rumors such as Tiger’s lawyer.
How many people do you know who would be so “clinical” in responding to wild vicious lies about their personal life?
Tiger is a human being who has feelings, right? Tiger is the person who is the subject of these malicious rumors?
Why not say that the “malicious rumors that are currently circulating are hurtful and have caused pain to my family and me.”
Again, the statement failed to humanize Woods. Humanizing Woods would have made us feel closer to him and would have made most of us want to close the blinds on the window to his life.
The media could have provided more information to put the story in context. The lack of context gave more room for speculation to occur.
The public relations team for Woods could have acted more swiftly before the story got out of control. The prepared statement could also have sounded more sincere and stated in a way to minimize the reach of the story.
This feeding frenzy did not need to occur.