I almost liked the guy, and started to feel a little sorry for him—see what a friendly, honest performance can do for you. If Tiger Woods had done months ago what he did today at the Augusta National Golf Club, his public image recovery would already be well down the road.
He didn’t provide details about “the accident” or “the affairs,” but he wasn’t asked for any of that, either. He acknowledged having taken medication (for insomnia) but when asked if that was part of the cause of the accident, replied that the police investigated the accident and fined him $166; not exactly a direct response to the question.
There was only one place where he refused to answer at all: when asked to be specific about the medical condition for which he has, and will, undergo rehabilitation, he replied “That’s personal, thank you.” Fair enough; he doesn’t owe us a peek into his private medical records.
The guy in front of the camera today wasn’t the same nervous twitch who stood in front of a blue curtain in his dad’s Navy blazer, or the impatient know-it-all watching the clock on those all-you-can-ask-in-five-minutes “interviews” last month.
Today, he came across as honest, composed, contrite. He seemed open about his professional relationship with Dr. Anthony Galea and the prescription drugs he had used, he expressed his concern about the media attention to his wife and children without scolding the photographers who take their pictures, and he smartly refused to take the bait when asked to speculate about why such-and-such thing happened.
He even committed some news, in matter-of-factly confirming prior injuries that weren’t quite public knowledge, which some day may lead to even more wonderment about what he achieved on the course given that he was playing hurt.
If you want to teach somebody how to deal with the news media successfully, today’s news conference and last month’s interviews are great examples: of what works, and what doesn’t.