As journalists, we like to separate ourselves from the gossip rags and tabloids, holding up words like “verification” and “journalistic standards” to differentiate ourselves.
Then something simple happens, like Tiger Woods crashing his car into a tree, and suddenly, the line’s not so clear.
Some outlets—The New York Times, for example—tried to play it safe in their reporting. The Times reported the crash and made reference to the rumours, but didn’t speculate on the cause of it. The paper didn’t add fuel to the rumours by repeating them, either.
Others haven’t been so disciplined.
The Associated Press, for example, cites a National Enquirer article in its story. Others, like the L.A. Times‘ reporting of the crash, link to TMZ for additional info.
And my personal favourite, CP24, freely reported rumours from both gossip rags, plus stationed a news reporter in a Toronto bar for several hours, asking bar patrons what they thought. Because someone sitting in a bar at 10 a.m. (on a weekday) is usually a good person to go to for right and wrong.
The best part? Throughout all of this the broadcaster ran a viewer poll: “Do you think media should butt out of the private lives of celebrities?”