When is sports news not sports news?

24 08 2010

I got into another Twitter discussion argument regarding the story of Tiger Woods’ divorce case. The lady whom I was Tweeting with (sounds dirty but get your mind out of the gutter) thought that anything about Woods’ divorce finalization with his ex-wife Elin was unfit for a sports website. I argued to the contrary, stating that since the story concerns Tiger Woods and since it is a news story, any sports website from ESPN.com to AOL Fanhouse to Yahoo! Sports should run at least the AP version.

She said that she doesn’t care about personal matters of athletes, only information pertaining to what someone is doing on the field, course, ice or court — or any story directly impacting on-field/course/ice/court performance. I can appreciate that, I noted, but how should website editors determine what affects athletes and what doesn’t? Another Tweeter interjected into our conversation by explaining that stories of players getting arrested are worthy because they can affect an athlete’s playing time. I can’t refute that but, again, where is the line drawn?

If a sports website were to banish stories about divorce cases, then what sense would it make to publish a story about an athlete signing an endorsement deal? How about an athlete doing charitable work? Those two types of stories wouldn’t directly affect on-field performance any more than would a divorce case settlement.

There’s also the responsibility of a website to finish reporting the cycle of a story. If ESPN.com or any other place reported the news stories of Tiger’s car crash last Thanksgiving and the subsequent news of his affairs and breakup with Elin, then it’s the site’s duty to finish reporting the story by seeing it through the divorce settlement. This was vehemently argued by the person I was Tweeting with, but I believe strongly in this.

A site has to show consistency through a story’s news cycle if it expects to gain credibility. As tired as some people might be with the story, it is a news story in the fact that it’s a divorce case. It is a sports story in the fact that a prominent athlete is involved. If it were the setup man on the Kansas City Royals getting a divorce, then I could understand not reporting a story. Nobody gives a damn about the Royals setup man. But people care about Tiger; he’s possibly the world’s most recognizable athlete. That’s why I think it makes sense for ESPN.com, and any other sports website, to publish the Tiger divorce story. It’s not a matter of ESPN becoming more like TMZ. It’s just a relevant news story regarding a well-known athlete. That’s enough to go live with it.

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