LYNN NEARY, host:
Normally, we end our Monday program with a commentary from Michel Martin. Today, we hear from another member of the TELL ME MORE team. Our senior producer, Alicia Montgomery, offers her thoughts on why the media seems so unwilling to take scandalous golfing star Tiger Woods recent public apology at face value.
ALICIA MONTGOMERY: From the moment Tiger Woods opened his mouth on Friday to say sorry to his family, his fans and anyone else within the sound of his voice, much of the media was gleefully second-guessing him. From the blogosphere, to cable news, to TELL ME MOREs weekly Barbershop roundtable, journalists were peppering him with putdowns and a series of queries we all know Tiger will never answer: Where was his wife? Why was he still so stilted in his speech, so wooden in his demeanor? And what was up with the handpicked audience members and the refusal to take questions?
The emerging conventional wisdom is that Woods should have stayed home if he wasnt ready to let it all hang out lay his private actions and pain bare for the media and the American public. But if we in the media are going to demand honesty from him, we must be willing to demand it of ourselves and admit there was almost nothing Woods could have said or done short of falling to his knees and begging for forgiveness that would have satisfied us.
Can I just tell you: Im not a Tiger apologist. He should be condemned for deceiving his wife, his sponsors, and yes, the millions of fans who admired him not just for his athletic feats but the squeaky clean life he pretended to be living. I think that the everybody-makes-mistakes standard where public figures get to wall off a huge range of their private behavior from scrutiny has led to a dumbing-down of our nations ethical life, where we grant a blanket pass to those who pursue a life of calculated deceit.
That being said, Ive started to ask myself a very hard question: How much of the ongoing Tiger takedown is just a journalist-revenge fantasy? If there are two things that we in the media cant stand, one is being frozen out and the other is being lied to or manipulated. And the public figures who get beat up the most are those who we believe have done both.
Tiger Woods years of success came in spite of his rejection of almost all interview invitations that were presented to him. And the fact that every third commercial seemed to feature a grinning Woods selling everything from sports drinks to luxury cars must have plucked the nerves of the reporters who covered him. Woods built his brand successful, healthy, attractive and wholesome without talking to those of us who believe we should tell the American public who is worthy of their admiration and their contempt. So, I wonder if Woods is now being punished less for disgracing his family and more for defying media expectations even at the moment of his downfall.
Many journalists passionately believe that its our duty to uncover every piece of information our audience must know, or even wants to know. But if we want the American public to trust our work, then they have to be able to trust our motives. And that means we, ourselves, need to know the difference between proper coverage and payback.
NEARY: That was TELL ME MOREs senior producer Alicia Montgomery. To respond to this commentary or anything you hear on our program, please check out our Web site. Go to npr.org, select TELL ME MORE from the Program page and blog it out.
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NEARY: And thats our program for today.
Im Lynn Neary and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Lets talk more tomorrow.