The “no information” interview

sham (sham) n. [prob. < a N.Eng. dial. var. of shame] 1. formerly, a trick or fraud  2. a) an imitation that is meant to deceive; counterfeit  b) a hypocritical action, deceptive appearance, etc. (The Tiger Woods interviews on ESPN and Golf Channel were a sham)

It only took seeing the first few seconds of The Golf Channel’s interview to realize something was screwy:

You don’t do a serious interview standing up, in front of what looks like a projected woodlands background, wearing a golf cap; the interviewer raced through questions without seeming to hear the answers; when you’re asked to explain what happened, you can’t just refer the world to the police report!

First of all, in this case, it’s not all in the police report.

Second, even if it were, it’s completely legitimate to want to see and hear him tell the story.  But I didn’t know at the time that The World’s Greatest Golfer Ever had limited the interview to only five minutes.  Kelly Tilghman didn’t have time to follow up: if she asked again—and he stalled again—she doesn’t get to ask any other questions…plus, she doesn’t want to challenge the famously testy TWGGE for fear of losing access later.

Eric Deggans saw what I was seeing: Woods wasn’t doing an interview, he was making something that looked like an interview, and would afford him the option to say “Hey, I already talked about this” and refuse to answer later when a real reporter asked the questions he still hasn’t answered.  (That’s a BS answer anyway, but the sports media lets athletes get away with it all the time.)

I worked in radio (back in the last century) and I understand the professional and promotional value of having the story first.  But the emphasis on “breaking news” comes at the expense of understanding the story: too many media companies use it as an excuse for why they don’t find out what’s really going on in Story A—they’re too busy doing live shots on Stories J and R.

And if they don’t understand that, how do you even discuss the issue of sending out an interviewer who has a private business relationship with the interviewee!

Tiger Woods is no idiot, and smart newsmakers do well to exploit the news media’s self-imposed soft spot to get their story out first—they know that it’s harder to change an impression than to make one.

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