Archive for Saturday, January 19, 2008

Commentary: Golfweek exploited a bad situation

January 19, 2008


If the purpose of the editors at Golfweek magazine was to draw attention, it worked.

On Wednesday evening, I was checking a message board frequented by African-American sports writers when I saw an item titled, "You won't believe this from Golfweek."

It provided a link to showing the cover of the Jan. 19 issue, which shows a noose next to the headline, "Caught in a Noose." The story is about the lynching comment Golf Channel announcer Kelly Tilghman made concerning Tiger Woods.

My initial reactions were similar to many on the message board - shock, followed by disbelief, followed by anger, and ended, sadly, with resignation.

In USA Today, Golfweek senior editor Dave Seanor acknowledged the noose was done with the intent to "draw attention to an issue we thought deserved some intelligent dialogue."

After reading both the story by senior writer Scott Hamilton and an accompanying editorial, I don't think Golfweek did anything more than throw more kindling onto a fire of rhetoric.

Or, as PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in a statement: "It was a naked attempt to inflame and keep alive an incident that was heading to an appropriate conclusion."

Seanor told "Journal-isms" - an online column by Richard Prince devoted to issues of race in journalism for the Robert C. Maynard Institute For Journalism Education - that his people debated "long and hard" about the noose, but they wanted to illustrate the debate over something "terribly offensive to African-Americans."

The problem isn't that Golfweek illustrated the debate. It just failed to explain why there is a debate in the first place.

Neither Hamilton's story nor the editorial does a thing to point out why Tilghman's now-infamous comment - that other young golfers should, in an effort to stop Woods' dominance, "lynch him in a back alley" - was so offensive.

And if, as Seanor told Journal-ism, Golfweek felt it needed to give readers, many who apparently e-mailed to say the Tilghman issue was overblown, a reality check on what the noose represents to African-Americans, it failed, from a lack of information.

Nothing in the magazine noted what the noose or "lynch" represents to the black community as a whole.

I called and e-mailed Seanor to ask why there was no explanation for that. I was told he was at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla., so, to be fair, he might not have received either message Thursday.

From the show, he did tell the Associated Press he "knew the image would grab attention, but I didn't anticipate the enormity of it. There's been a huge negative reaction."

The story recapped the timeline of events. It talked about the national furor that prompted the Golf Channel to go from doing nothing to suspending Tilghman for two weeks.

It provided arguments for and against the punishment being too little or too harsh.

It ended with Dr. Harry Edwards, a University of California-Berkeley sociology professor and civil-rights activist, telling folks, presumably offended African-Americans, to "accept (Tilghman's) apology and move on."

My shock and anger comes from seeing a noose on the cover of Golfweek. My resignation comes because the people running the magazine believe that what they did constitutes something positive.


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