This month marks an anniversary of sorts for the Brownwood Bulletin. It was 10 years ago, December, 1999, that the newspaper launched its electronic edition, www.brownwoodbulletin.com. While the computer world was gearing up for the impact Y2K was going to have on computer programs and systems, a small group of novices on Carnegie Street were venturing into the era of electronic publishing. To a large extent they remain novices today. The effort has been plagued with lack of direction and focus because it was new territory for everyone and a manual for success did not exist.
The last decade has produced a lot of theoretical experts expounding on the direction newspapers should go in order to attract viewers, become the portal to the Internet for their community and along the way generate the revenue to fund the enterprise. Most of the so-called experts have proved to be false prophets and most community newspaper web-sites continue to struggle to generate the revenue to expand the electronic venture and keep up with the rapidly changing technology. Ten years ago we were learning to adapt the print version of the newspaper to deliver it to personal computers, desktop and laptop versions. Today the exercise has to expand and reach subscribers on their hand-held electronic device and the product to be delivered has to change to be successful.
It is remarkable with how much speed the processes are changing and how addicting staying connected and in-touch has become for the public. Cell phone use has become pervasive and the uses so numbered that the least of which may be making a telephone call. Social networking has moved way beyond talking with someone directly. We send text messages and photos to family and friends, and follow them, as well as sports, government and entertainment celebrities on networking sites.
Given the modern environment where information travels literally around the world in seconds via the Internet, how does a modern sports celebrity, especially a cerebral participant in a sport that has integrated and changed through the benefits of technology, believe it is possible to operate under the public radar? It cannot be ignorance that Tiger Woods is in the publicity nightmare he finds himself today; it has to be arrogance. In his carefully worded admission and apology statement that appeared on his personal Web site, he said he was dismayed to realize the full extent of what tabloid scrutiny really means. I find that hard to believe.
From his statements we know that Woods is furious that the world now knows about a part of his life that he had wished to keep secret. He has been one of the world’s most private public figures and he is fiercely arguing that he is entitled to some simple, human measure of privacy. According to Woods, it should not matter that he is a well-known person and that he is a high-profile professional athlete. Perhaps it shouldn’t. But Woods has been in the public limelight for most of his life, a time span of three decades, he has to know what the adoring public is like. The public has an obsession with hero worship, particularly sports personalities and he has profited greatly from that adoration. How could he think that he was going to escape detection? The public loves gossip and scandals almost as much as much as it loves its sports heroes.
If we accept for a moment the accuracy of the assertion made by the “other woman” that they have been having an affair for 31 months, then it would follow that this has been a well thought out and orchestrated affair. It is not a case of a momentary lapse in judgment and integrity in which he succumbed to an over-affectionate fan. Woods is surrounded by a team of consultants, from swing coaches and conditioning experts to sports psychologists and body guards, from people who arrange for his travel and accommodations to agents who solicit endorsement and appearance dates. Where were all of these people over the past two and a half years? I realize they are all work and are paid by Woods, but one would think someone in the entourage would have provided him with a clue to the reckless nature of his actions.
For a professional golfer who manages a golf course and a tournament as skillfully as anyone who has played the game, I find it incredible that Woods would carelessly gamble and take the liberties he has in his personal life. Will those in the public eye never learn?
Robert Brincefield is vice president and publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Sunday. He may be reached by e-mail at bob.brincefield