Focus on the Family President Jim Daly blasted salacious coverage of the Tiger Woods scandal in the mainstream media, offering assurances that he would refrain from the kind of commentary that often turned into "exploitation."
In a column published last Monday called simply "Tiger Woods," Daly encouraged readers to look in the mirror before judging and "pray for those, like Woods, who are hurting."
Daly explained that he felt compelled to offer a statement, not to repeat juicy stories, but to address an issue hanging on everyone's mind thanks to relentless media coverage:
A little more than a week removed from his now-infamous one-car crash on Thanksgiving night, golf legend Tiger Woods remains front page news, but for all the wrong and sad reasons.
Like most of you, I'm not one to follow the latest Hollywood gossip or eagerly peel through the pages of People Magazine. But it's hard to miss hearing about the sordid details and accusations surrounding the alleged infidelity of the golfing great. Earlier this week, in an attempt to quell the rumors, Tiger released a statement acknowledging personal "transgressions" but didn't elaborate and pleaded for privacy.
Daly was all too accurate about the details being "hard to miss." As NewsBuster Julia A Seymor reported, the big three networks aired 62 stories on the scandal in the first five days. US News & World Report writer Robert Schlesinger noted with alarm that news coverage of Woods was heavier than that of the healthcare debate in the Senate. Anyone with a computer or cable TV was incessantly made aware of updates surrounding the scandal, while actual news items were skimmed over.
Worse yet, going far beyond reporting the facts around a story, the news media descended into full-blown tabloid mode disguised as journalism. On December 3, USA Today ran a shameful piece on the most popular jokes being cracked at Woods' expense. The New York Daily News published a breathless announcement that a pornographic movie was already in production to mock the Woods marriage.
News outlets that had once complained of "gotcha" games being played over the ClimateGate emails suddenly found an intense urgency to share embarrassing text conversations. Newsweek technology writer Nick Summers praised his own good fortune of practicing journalism in "the golden age of the sex scandal" - secret lovers using cell phones to document affairs more efficiently.
Removing any doubt that no low is too low for the liberal media, Summers callously admitted to finding a sense of delight in relaying the sleaziest tidbits buried in private messages. Summers confessed that "as a scholar of the tawdry, I find the prospect of working with primary documents exhilarating."
Yet Summers insisted that the reason for all of this disgusting behavior was not for amusement of nosy reporters, but as a public service:
The tendency of powerful men to cheat, and our prurient fascination: these are constants of American culture. Cluck if you like, but America loves to obsess about a scandal. And as in any passionate pursuit, it's the quality of the details, the grace notes and showstoppers alike, that elevates one over another. Thanks to the vanishing separation between action and digital record, they're only going to get more riveting.
Summers did not acknowledge that along with cell phones and zip drives, the digital age has supplied us with more access to tabloid outlets than ever before. A public so "obsessed" with scandal has no shortage of where to obtain it, so there is no logical explanation for periodicals that supposedly discuss hard news to resort to reporting on smut. If Summers wants to indulge himself as a "scholar of the tawdry" then it baffles the mind to think of how he ended up writing technology columns for Newsweek.
As to the point that the public was obsessed with the Woods saga, not so much. A Rasmussen poll found on December 3 that less than half of Americans kept up with the story, and a full 80% believed the media was going overboard. According to a more recent Pew survey published on Thursday, Afghanistan and the healthcare debate were the most popular items the public was interested in following, with Tiger Woods coming in a distant fourth.
Yet to liberals in the media, there was somehow enough public interest to demand revelation of every exquisite detail. Then, after having destroyed his reputation with their endless chatter, they turned coy at having to report Woods' decision to take a sabbatical.
The public's general approval of Woods has fallen by 18 points since the day of his car crash; pretty severe damage, to be sure. But the problem is, we will never know how much of that reaction was influenced by overzealous reporters.
As the rest of the media ripped into Tiger Woods and exposed humiliating secrets for the sake of entertainment, Daly offered a welcome reminder that while celebrity scandals might feel temporarily amusing, the real life effects are not:
As someone who has read the mail here at Focus on the Family for over twenty years, the news from Orlando is all too familiar. Rarely do we hear from someone as high profile as Tiger Woods, but the grief and the pain that falls upon broken families knows no economic or social boundary. When the vows of marriage are broken, heartache follows just as surely as the sun will set tonight.
To enlightened reporters in the liberal media, a broken marriage was just another way to sell a paper - whether or not the public was buying.