The Thanksgiving weekend accident that sent Tiger Woods to the hospital proves that what’s true of nature is true of modern media and media consumers: both abhor a vaccum.
The bizarre circumstances surrounding the situation suggest a deeper explanation than Woods heading out to his local Best Buy to snag some Black Friday door buster deals. Traditional media outlets have reported poked fun and spread rumors. But TMZ is pointing to eyewitness reports that contradict the facts given by ESPN on the ubiquitous crawl across the bottom of the screen during the Thanksgiving weekend college football games. TMZ also reports that law enforcement agencies are looking more deeply into the matter.
Honestly, the truth of Tiger Woods and his wild ride are of little import to world affairs. Everyone – or at least, almost everyone – is happy that his injuries weren’t serious, and he can go back to being the amazing golf ball whacker guy that he was on Wednesday.
For TMZ, though, the Tiger tale gives them another notch on their belt to go along with their scoop on the death of Michael Jackson. What used to be a disdained celebrity gossip site has now played a key role in two major stories over the past six months. Woods even had to respond to the reports – predictably calling them false, but offering no new details.
TMZ succeeds because they fill a need for information that other media are unable to provide – working largely by interviewing witnesses, digging through public records, and other classic hallmarks of the un-sexy world of old fashioned shoe-leather journalism. Contrast that with the largely opinion-driven chatter that permeates 24 hour news channels, and the secret of TMZ’s success becomes a little more clear.