October 5, 2009

IMG Sells Press Access To Tiger For Aussie Masters

Australian sportswriters hoping to get an interview with Tiger Woods next month while he is Down Under for their Masters tournament are out of luck -- unless they happen to work for the Melbourne Herald-Sun. That's because IMG sold the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper exclusive access to the World's #1 for that tournament.

Peter Stone, a writer for the Sydney Morning Herald commented today that "This is my 41st year as a golf writer for various newspapers, and in that time never before has such a deal been struck."

There are good arguments in either direction towards this subject -- Tiger is an entertainer and as one, access to him is not necessarily in the public interest, as it would be for a politician. On the other hand, sports figures are generally in a gray zone between newsmakers like pols and entertainers like movie stars, in that athletes are usually covered by newspapers the same way one might cover their local legislator - the paper reports what happened on the field of play, and they often get original material quotes from the subject in order to flesh out their coverage. In other words, just like so-called "hard" news. As such a symbiosis is established - the paper needs the star, and the star needs the paper. They both coexist largely thanks to the other. Charging for an interview would upset that balance.

Take your pick as to which one is right.

Then again, the coin always has another side: if Tiger Woods' time is a commodity to be bought and sold, then so are the column inches that fill the newspapers. It's arguable that newspapers and other media outlets' coverage of Woods built his fame, and that without their free publicity, he may not be quite as large a public figure as he is today. Quid pro quo (something for something) -- if Woods is going to charge for his time, then newspapers could charge him for covering him and providing notoriety. Tenuous yes, but a good lawyer can "prove" nearly anything.

At the end of the day, to me it is disappointing to see IMG and Tiger "pioneer" this for golf. If it is successful others will surely follow, and over the long haul, the breadth of golf journalism will narrow and take some of the richness of the game along with it. For example, if Tiger and IMG sells his time at the Masters Tournament to the Atlanta Journal while The State in Columbia purchases Phil Mickelson's time, and Mad Magazine nabs the exclusive with Sergio Garcia, inevitably, the coverage would be farm more limited. And that's not good for golf.

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely LOVE this idea ! Just once in a while, seeing a media outlet having to pay for something instead of them making demands on everybody else. Probably wouldn't want to see it all the time - but this is pretty funny.

    Don't count on it happening at The Masters, though. This is a tournament run by people who don't really care what the media wants - and Tiger has way too much respect for this tournament.


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