My Plea to Robin Roberts

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At first, this week’s news buzz and online chatter about Tiger Woods’ drama annoyed me, but in the last few days, I’ve grown disgusted by it. No, this isn’t about Tiger. I’m talking about society’s sick addiction to juicy gossip and mainstream media’s choice to serve it up like crack dealers on a playground.

Oh my gosh! A human with flaws! Stop the presses because this is a story far greater than any we’ve ever heard.

The media reacted rabidly to the driveway incident that revealed the golfer is flawed. Oh my gosh! A human with flaws! We’ve never heard of a sports celebrity whose pedestal is teetering beneath him.  The golden boy with a fortune trifecta (fat wallet, hot wife, wicked golf handicap) has played Russian Roulette with his brand’s bounty.

Is this it, I asked myself? Is this the kind of nightly news that reflects our nation’s priorities? This isn’t the journalism I studied in school. News has become a prime time circus act for attention. When did news become needy? The truth is, it had grown needy long before Tiger woke up the neighbors when he hit the mailbox.

So what’s a communicator like me to do?

By gosh, I did what any morning news viewer does in a moment like this:  I wrote a Dear Robin letter.  As tongue-in-cheek as that might sound, the content of my note to Robin Roberts, co-anchor of Good Morning America, is no joke.

My note, which I’ve pasted below, is more than an idle rant; it is a sincere challenge to the GMA team. Are the producers listening, really listening, to what its viewers want to learn? I hope so, which is why I took my plea to Robin Roberts.

My Dear Robin Letter

This is part Rant and part Plea, Robin. It is my reaction after reading yet another story about Tiger…

I’ve said it on Twitter, and I’ll say it here, too.

As a nation, we’re trying to get our feet back underneath us, we’re struggling with political division, families of soldiers are sleepless because of the war… and so much more, yet mainstream media is serving up Tiger speculation?! It’s insulting.

What blows me away is that the news media keeps shoveling it out, despite comments on blogs, other SM outlets and poll responses. I expect no less from scandal chasers such as TMZ, but when trained journalists and news anchors give the speculation a whirl, I lose respect for their ability to recognize cultural priorities. It’s just gross.

Let’s try this… for the folks who feel compelled to express their disappointment, dismay and shock at Tiger’s choices, why don’t we shut up and leave his family alone so that they have the energy and space to face it?

Our society beats its chest about the damage being done. We feign concern over the welfare of the kids, etc. etc., yet we directly or indirectly validate the media and quasi-media outlets that publish stories and photos that will leave a sickening trail for the children to see.

If we’re REALLY serious about holding up the ideals of marriage and fidelity, let’s back away and let people (celebrities or not) face the pain without distraction.

I will stand up and cheer at the top of my lungs when I see a news program say “Enough is enough.” This is not the type of journalism that I studied when I was in college, and I struggle to believe that credible journalists feel good about some of the stories they cover.

Robin, seriously, turn the mirror on your fellow journalists and do a story about this. This isn’t just about Tiger. It’s about mainstream media’s growing neediness.

Is the media ripping the scab off of wounds just so it can report that someone is bleeding? Because, I gotta tell you — there are plenty of gaping wounds that need media attention.

Robin, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

8 thoughts on “My Plea to Robin Roberts

  1. Kelli,

    I heard an interesting stat yesterday….Toger Woods broke the record for the number of consecutive days on the front cover of the New York Post. The prior record-holder with 19 days was 9-11. Yes, the New York Post thinks the Tiger story, as it unfolds, is more compelling than 9-11, I guess. Can I draw that assumption from this?

    Ken K.

  2. In follow-up, here’s the comment I posted on in reply to the question “Will Tiger (the business) Survive?”

    Yes, his business brand will survive and has all of the ingredients to come back even stronger than it’s been. If Tiger’s personal disaster genuinely transforms him, he’ll bring a new man to the golf course and the sporting world.

    Here’s my take: the “old” Tiger Woods brand wasn’t sustainable for the simple fact that it represented a mythical image of the perfect man who has it all.

    The undercurrent of dismay at his infidelity wasn’t because he’s a married man who committed serial adultry. The real shock and awe was that Tiger Woods would do it — after all, he had everything (or so we’d like to think).

    The Tiger Woods brand represented power, blistering focus, epic control and no Achilles heal. But as we’ve learned, the real Tiger Woods, the flawed Tiger Woods, is human.

    If I were in Tiger’s camp, I’d guard his and his family’s privacy with rabid ferocity so that he can repent for and repair the damage with the people that matter most (which isn’t us). THEN, I’d bring in whoever it takes to help Tiger figure out what he’s learned and who he is.

    That brings me back to the brand. Tiger Woods is still a master golfer, dominating competitor, and a gifted athlete. When he emerges whole again, he’ll still be human, but he’ll have learned the excruciating pain of defeat. Now THAT is far from the mythical character that brands like Accenture want to endorse. Redemption is golden — but you can’t manufacture it or rush it. If Nike is smart, they’ll hang tight with their man.

  3. I’m not sure I understand your feelings.
    I accept (& mostly agree with) the notion that one feels this isn’t any of our business and I can respect the concern for journalistic integrity that the risks of relying on gossiping blogs might lead a legitimate news source to issue false reports (and the dangers that would follow if relying on these sites becomes the norm).

    What I’m not fully understanding is – if this is the “news” that the consuming public wants to read/watch about, why should the media not be writing/talking about it?

    Or are you calling out the Media and hoisting them up as America’s moral compass?

    I guess, after airing out my thoughts, that you believe our news sources have a greater responsibility to drive & direct the public’s sensibilities. They should tell us what we’re supposed to care about (by reporting on issues that matter like the “several war efforts, poverty, homelessness,” etc.), and when they allow us to indulge in our own voyeuristic tendencies the Media is bringing us down another notch.

    I’m just not sure why we should expect more from the Media machine than we expect from any other business endeavor. The goal is to make money and give the customer what they want.

    • Ari ~

      The 2nd paragraph of your comment captures the essence of the question and the root of my frustration.

      IS news media really delivering what we want? If it is, then I need to surf my cable channels, because mainstream media didn’t give me what I want this week. I want news.

      As for Tiger, the fact-based news story was over when the police issued a ticket and closed the case. Of course his personal drama was destined for the tabloid media. Tabloids don’t apologize for their business model, their methods, or their mission.

      Your last line forms the pitch for the story I want to see… how DOES mainstream media know what we want? How and where is it listening? And to whom?

      If the Tiger coverage reflects audience demand, then I’m not watching the right programs. Cheers, Ari.

  4. Kelli — Thank you for taking the time to write what so many are thinking. When this “story” first broke my first thought was that I hope no one was hurt. As the story continues to “break” — (as the media seems to be gleefully drawing out every salacious and trivial detail) I can’t help but think … “Is this news?”

    To me this is an issue between Tiger Woods, his wife, his family, his sponsors and any others that feel they were wronged in this ever expanding tawdry tale. Just because it involves a celebrity, one that has enjoyed a squeaky clean image, does not make it news. Sadly, the news media has taken this story and lead with it in almost every report.

    Note to the News Media — Get Over It and Move On!

    To your point — Do we really have nothing else to focus on? The economy, unemployment, the housing market, several war efforts, poverty, homelessness, not to mention other important issues going on outside US borders.

    What’s Next?
    I’m wondering if we’ll see a scene like in the movie “Elf” where “real” reporters will be standing around looking for Santa in Central Park. At least that would be somewhat newsworthy.

    Thank you again for bringing this to light in print. I hope GMA and other “news” outlets take your message to heart and turn the mirror on themselves. If not, they risk becoming nothing more than purveyors of tabloid fodder.

  5. Kelli.

    As always, you are spot on! Well done.

    In life, sooner or later we all sit down to a banquet of consequences. If we have made some bad choices, then this “banquet” is often quite uncomfortable. It is hard enough to work through these issues without the entire world watching.

    Better yet, while the whole world is watching, we come forward and admit we have made mistakes, admit we feel badly about them, and commit to try and make them right and be better in the future. That is also a very uncomfortable reality to face when the whole world is watching.

    I’m ready to move on. I wish Tiger all the best and I hope he can get things back on course in his life. Now, let’s pay attention to some of the more critical things as you’ve mentioned above. Anyone notice our country is more leveraged than 95% of businesses in America? Should we maybe address the inaccurate pronouncements that our recession is over and admit it may not be over until 2011? Should we maybe mention the selfless sacrifice of so many soldiers and their families so that we can enjoy our freedom, the very same freedom that becomes more and more expensive by the day?

    Kelli, I’m with you. Let’s get back to the issues that matter most and encourage Tiger and every other flawed human in this world to heal and come back better and stronger so we can solve the rest of these critical issues we face!

  6. Well said. I too am sickened by the media attention this thing is getting. I like your letter to Robin and think a similar one could be sent to Meredith after watching the Today Show coverage this morning.

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