The Weekly Round-Up: Sports Journalism at a Crossroads: TMZ and the Eye of the Tiger Woods Media Storm

Posted in The Gnovis Blog

When news of Michael Jackson’s death hit the public this summer, it wasn’t ABC, CBS, NBC, or even Matt Drudge who broke the story; rather, it was TMZ, an online gossip rag owned by Time Warner.  Now, one week into the awkward public airings of Tiger Wood’s “personal failings,” TMZ has all but owned the breaking news, beating almost every other news outlet to updates on the ever-evolving story.

Because Woods is an athlete–and because he suffered an phsycial injury in his accident–his “personal failings” have also been intensely covered by the sports media.  Because TMZ has been such an important source for breaking news, sports media heavies like ESPN have found themselves in the odd position of citing TMZ as a source in their reporting (see an example here).   While personal scandals have long made headlines (O.J. Simpson, Steroids, Favre, etc.), the Woods scandal is unique in its reliance on “gossip” media outlets like TMZ.  Over the past week, sports bloggers have had a variety of reactions to the media coverage of the story. Here is a sampling of what they have had to say:


National Sports Journalism Center Blog at Indiana University:

“Much as some sports commentators wanted to shrug off the Tiger feeding frenzy, questions about sponsorship, fan affection, his charity golf outing later this week, police treatment of certain sports celebrities and the possibility of a dark inner life most sports media missed made this a real news story in too many ways.”

Fanhouse Blog:

“TMZ, emboldened by their success in reporting events surrounding the June death of Michael Jackson, has attacked the Woods story with a particular bloodthirstiness. In the process, fearing that the public won’t draw the distinction between conventional news sources and the tabloids, traditional gatekeepers [like ESPN] have gone full bore into the story as well, televising, for example, press conferences about traffic tickets.”


Sports, Media, and Society Blog at the John Curley Sports Journalism Center at Penn State University:

“The recent Tiger Woods car crash created a media firestorm—and not just in traditional sports journalism outlets. Celebrity and sports blogs were on the story, as well, and the differences in coverage illustrated the changing sports media landscape.”

Farther off the Wall:

“We find ourselves amused, and confused, in which direction to turn for accurate information. Who wins in the long run — the short-term satisfaction instant sources or the ones established for having the patience to see how things shake out before reporting on what’s known and what isn’t?”