Tabloids Feeding Traditional Media Not New

In the two weeks since the Tiger Woods story first broke, I’ve heard from many Tanner Friedman contacts sending me links to stories of all sorts written about the PR aspects of the situation.

One of the comments I have seen multiple times really surprises me and leads me to believe it’s time for a history refresher.

Some have said that this story is bad news for journalism because traditional media outlets are taking their lead from tabloid outlets and reporting “tabloid news” directly, with attribution. While some might not like that practice, guess what – it’s nothing new. It has been going on for years.

The actual beginning of what has been a trend for more than a generation of journalism was in January, 1992. That’s when a “supermarket tabloid” called The Star paid a woman in Arkansas named Gennifer Flowers to talk about her alleged affair with the Governor of Arkansas, named Bill Clinton, who was running for President of the United States.

Not long after The Star’s story appeared, news of the story appeared in virtually every mainstream news outlet in the country. Flowers hosted a press conference in New York and was mobbed by mainstream media. Days later, 50 million Americans watched then Governor Clinton, with his wife, Hillary, by his side, on 60 Minutes, deny the allegation he would admit to, under oath, five years later, but admit to causing “pain in his marriage.” News geeks like me will love this link to the transcript of what turned out to be a historic interview.

While the Gulf War a year before The Star’s big story helped put CNN “on the map,” this scandal has certainly catapulted to the top of minds. Don’t criticize me, please, for putting CNN and tmz in the same sentence. They are owned by the same company – Time Warner.