Tiger Woods & American Media: how close to extortion?

I was curious about one thing regarding the details emerging about Tiger Woods’s past efforts to keep his image clean:

How close did this come to extortion? It sounds like it was Woods who made the offer, and so it wasn’t a case of him responding to an explicit demand on the Enquirer’s part. On a personal level, though, if you know that I have a business interest that I’d like you to be involved in, and then one day I come to you and say that I have compromising pictures of you and then stand there waiting expectantly, I imagine I’m cutting it pretty close. Does it work differently for celebrities and the media?

It’s not extortion because the Enquirer never asked for any money. It is a standard journalistic practice*to contact the subject of an article for comments, especially on something that might ruin his career. What happened here was that Woods replied by offering to give the interview in exchange for dropping the story. The Enquirer never asked for this, but evidently decided that the interview is worth it.**

Wood’s offer was a request, not a demand. News publications get these all the time. I know of one case where, for instance, the local police department asked a reporter not to run a story about some minor corruption, since they had discovered it and taken action against the officer and the prevent it from occurring again. The reporter had the choice of dropping the story and getting future police cooperation in return, or running it and having the police pissed at him. He made the wrong choice and ran the story.

*One could argue that the Enquirer never worried about standard journalistic practice, but still.
**Definitely not standard journalistic practice, but see previous footnote.

I don’t see how it is extortion in any respect. Tiger has the right to control the manner in which he interacts with the media. In doing so, he is free to negotiate any deals he wishes. Requesting favorable coverage (or the suppression of unfavorable) is no different from negotiating a higher fee.

And the publication is always free to reject Tiger’s demands. All they need to do is weigh whether they would benefit more from going against his wishes and going with the unfavorable stuff, than kissing Tiger’s butt and hopefully getting increased cooperation from him.

It has long been clear that Tiger has been EXCEPTIONALLY attentive to controlling his public persona, granting access to “friends” and denying it to “enemies.” In fact, even the access granted to friendly media has been quite limited - a testiment to Tiger’s drawing power that the media is so willing to prostitute itself for mere bones.

Just curious why you called that the “wrong choice” ? Wrong for him personally, or wrong because it damaged the police dept.'s reputation, etc?

These kinds of arrangements are probably not unusual for entertainment tabloids - these are very different circumstances, but look at the deal Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt arranged with People in return for photos of their children. Generally speaking tabloids are more willing to make deals for stories. They’ll also sometimes pay sources, which other outlets are loath to do.

As long as the Enquirer ddn’t make the offer “we squash story in return for X” its not extortion.

You could argue “if you squash the story we’ll give you X” is a form of bribery offer, but only if you had journalistic ethics. OTOH, many news organizations squash stories all the time, and I’m sure some are for spoken or unspoken trade-offs.

Every story like the police one is a trade-off. The organization that says “don’t run the story it will ruin our image” is wrong; the image is already ruined when X did Y. Showing “look we fixed it” is probably better than trying to hide it… as I’m sure the Catholic Church is finding out the last few years. It also gives other perps pause to think that their boss is not afraid to turn them in. Usually “we fixed it” means the guy resigned quietly with no penalty, not he was charged with corruption or accepting a bribe or assault or perjury… Which implies the next guy to do it can expect similar lenient treatment, and has a bigger lever to demand it - “or else I expose that you let the last bunch off…”

So you think newspapers should avoid reporting it when they discover police corruption as long as ‘action has been taken’? :dubious:

In some scenarios if your reporting is the metro beat or similar with lots of local interest items the police shutting you out could effectively end or severely damage your career.

But if you agree not to report certain news (which, lets face it, is what this was) you’re not doing your job anyways.