Outing Wie is a bigger deal than you think

I was pretty pissed when Michelle Wie was disqualified during her professional golfing debut Sunday, but I was infuriated that it was the result of a tattletale reporter for Sports Illustrated. Like most golf fans, I think she brings something new to the game, and I want her to succeed. But my anger over the disqualification has nothing to do with that.

In a nutshell, SI reporter (and former pro caddie) Michael Bamberger watched as Ms. Wie took a penalty drop on the 7th hole Saturday. He thought she’d accidentally taken an improper drop, which placed her ball inches ahead of where it should have been dropped. Golf has sacrosanct rules, and Bamberger (and in truth, a lot of fans) views himself as a keeper of the rules. So he went to an LPGA official Sunday afternoon and snitched. The LPGA had no choice but to question Ms. Wie and her caddie, and absent proof of innocence, pronounce her guilty.

Yesterday, thegolfchannel.com carried a puff piece about Bamberger written by a friend of his (Brian Hewitt) that offered the opportunity for interaction. Here’s what I wrote:

To everything’s a season, and the season to out Michelle Wie was Saturday, not Sunday. His waiting raises far too many unsettling questions that cannot be satisfactorily answered by a bothered conscience or a sense of propriety. Sports Illustrated is a business with fundamental motives beyond those of helping golfers see the error of their ways, and I don’t, I can’t trust their justification for this. Michelle made news on Sunday, but so did Sports Illustrated.
USA Today is running an article today in which Bamberger states his conviction that he did the right thing, but Bob Steele at Poynter disagrees.
“If lives are at risk, and the journalist is the only one who can intervene, that’s different from citing a rules violation by an athlete,” Steele said. “We should report that as part of our journalism. We should not be the whistle-blower who is going to the authorities.”
I’m with Bob on this. Aside from the various issues about the right and wrong of this whole event, there’s a bigger matter that all news people should consider. The action by Bamberger and Sports Illustrated is just another episode of us putting ourselves above the stories we cover, and the public is watching.

Want to know why the press has lost the trust of the people? Add this sad event to the list.

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