Tiger Woods finds celebrity media impossible to tame

Mon Dec 14, 2009 3:45pm EST
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Golfer Tiger Woods underestimated the pervasive power of the celebrity media in exposing his double life and his renewed pleas for privacy are unlikely to be honored in an era when scandal is big business, media experts said on Saturday.

Woods, the most lauded golfer of his generation, has seen his squeaky-clean image crumble with a sex scandal that has made him the butt of jokes and put his alleged mistresses on the front pages of celebrity magazines and featured prominently on national television.

And it's not likely to end any time soon, despite Woods admitting to infidelity and asking on Friday for "the time, privacy and safe haven we will need for personal healing."

"It is selling magazines. It is increasing traffic to Web sites. Celebrity media is a business, and while Tiger's business is going under, the media is doing beautifully," said Hollywood public relations veteran Howard Bragman.

Bragman described Woods, who has been in hiding since the scandal broke with a bizarre car crash on Nov 27, as "a hunted man." A photo of Woods, with possible facial injuries from the accident, would fetch up to $1 million, he said.

Jim Bates, a crisis management consultant with the Los Angeles firm Sitrick Brincko, said it was unrealistic for Woods to hope to escape the media frenzy in an age in which anyone can take pictures on mobile phones and have them up on the Internet in a few minutes.

"The celebrity media is so pervasive. It's very competitive and aggressive -- exponentially more so than 20 years ago. And the mainstream media is very much more involved now in celebrity news," said Bates, whose company's clients include the Michael Jackson estate.

It's not just news outlets that have jumped on the Tiger Woods story. Satirical TV sketch show "Saturday Night Live" spoofed him a week ago and TV chat show host Jay Leno has been running a nightly "Tiger Tote Board" counting the number of women (13 by Friday) claiming or reported to have had sex with the married golfer.   Continued...

<p>Tiger Woods of the U.S. is seen on the fairway on the 15th hole in round two of the Australian Masters golf tournament in Melbourne November 13, 2009. REUTERS/Mick Tsikas</p>