Sensationalism Sells

Kurt —  June 19, 2007

The Kobe situation feels like it went tabloid this week — first the rehashing as new the two-week-old rantings of Kobe’s Web site, then this subversively shot video that reportedly says what the Web site said but with a few F-bombs thrown in.

There’s no new news here — but how individual reporters and news organizations are handling this situation can tell you a lot about them.

First lets talk about AP making the mistake of taking Kobe’s 18-day-old post last Sunday, seeing an updated date on it and running it as “new.” I think that was an honest mistake — the date listed the post as new on, and AP reporters are not the kings of sensationalism. However the fact they didn’t know it was old is a sign of just how closely they pay attention to the details.

What I found interesting is what happened next — a number of sites that should have known it was dated ran it big. ESPN ran it on Sportscenter, with a graphic and a reading of what he said. Just as they had done not even three weeks earlier.

A lot of other national media and a blogs also ran this as new. Some like the sensational, some like to stir the Kobe pot because it’s good for hits/ratings/papers sold. Sensationalized Kobe draws eyeballs, it gets readers and viewers. If they are willing to go with the sensational here, what about trade rumors? Playing up the Buss family squabbles? Anything that titillates?

Notice that the beat writers here in LA new better — every paper debunked it as old news instantly. For all the grief they get, the beat writers covering the Lakers are a good, professional group.


Then there is the Kobe video — is there anything that doesn’t feel sleazy about this? That starts with the guys who see Kobe and surreptitiously video him, then start figuring out the best way to make a profit off it. (No way I’m linking to them, by the way.)

Media outlets that choose to play this up are going the “US Weekly with Parris Hilton” route. So be it, that’s their right. But we don’t have to buy the publication. (By the way, not talking about Eric Pincus verifying it story.)

What I’m saying about all this is simply this — times like this can teach you a lot about the people giving you their news and their motivations and goals. And knowing that helps you better filter the news they provide. Just something to think about.