Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 January 2008 02:36 Wednesday, 16 January 2008 01:10
When Kelly Tilghman added "Lynch him in a back alley," to Nick Faldo's joking statement, ..."We just have to gang up on him," you can be sure that she had no idea that it would end in up in a two-week suspension.
The Golf Channel's Tilghman and Faldo were talking on-air during the Friday round of the Mercedes-Benz Championship discussing how young players might challenge the world's number one, Tiger Woods.
By the following Monday, the storm had broken.
The word "lynch" made in reference to a fifty percent african-american had evidently raised some people's ire.
Initially,The Golf Channel stood behind Kelly saying that no harm was intended but when the Reverend Al Sharpton went on CNN demanding her dismissal, they reversed their position and suspended her for two weeks.
The Golf Channel said in a statement, "While we believe that Kelly's choice of words were inadvertent and that she did not intend them in an offensive manner, the words were hurtful and grossly inappropriate."
When you take a closer look at this storm, however, it really can be seen for what it is, a tempest in a teapot.
First, it clearly was not an intentional racial slur and, even if the Sharptons of this world want to speak on Tiger's behalf, Woods himself has a different point of view.
Tilghman and Woods have known each other for more than a decade and when Tiger introduced the new Nike drivers and clubfitting system last December, Tiger trusted Kelly enough to have her be the master of ceremonies for the event. Woods' agent at IMG, said in a statement on Tiger's behalf, "Regardless of the choice of words used, we know unequivocally that there was no ill intent in her comments."
Second, it's clear that she was jokingly thinking more along the lines of the younger players taking Tiger out and giving him a physical working over... that's what you do in a back alley.
Lynchings generally require trees which are not found in back street urban environments.
And while this may still not be the most politically correct statement, it's nothing like Fuzzy Zoeller's 1997 reference to Tiger as "...that little boy," and his suggestion that Woods not serve fried chicken or collard greens, "or whatever the hell they serve," at the Masters Champions' Dinner.
More likely it was one of those situations where, almost unconsciously, you realize that what is going to come out won't sound right and change it on the fly.
Tilghman instinctively knew that "beat him up in a back alley" might not sound appropriate and replaced "beat him up" with the first phrase that came to mind. In this case that turned out to be the rather unfortunate choice of "lynching him."
Not hard to do when you are trying to quickly match snappy quips with the surprisingly funny Nick Faldo.
Finally, often when a quote is repeated in print, it can appear much different than it did when originally spoken.
Sound bite responses can easily be taken out of context. Stream of consciousness spoken words which may sound fine on TV do not always translate well to the written page.
That's what happened to Kelly.
And that's the point of this column.
As a journalist, it is very easy to take advantage of one's position. If an interviewer does not appropriately edit what a subject says and quotes them out of context, their responses and answers can easily be misconstrued. It's a judgement call as to what is appropriate to include or leave out... Maintain journalistic integrity while presenting the subject in a fair light.
The best journalists get the story right and still maintain the respect of the interview subject.
Kelly Tilghman enjoys a good reputation as a journalist and now, as the subject of a story as opposed to reporting it, she deserves the same consideration.
Good journalists will have covered this story in its entirety and more importantly, fair readers will have judged her words in their entire context.
By Jeff Sutherland
Jeff Sutherland is the publisher of Inside Golf Magazine.http://www.insidegolf.ca