It is understandable, based on his history, that some may have suspicioned there was more to Dustin Johnson’s August 1, 2014 announcement, than a voluntary leave from the game for his stated personal reasons. In today’s instant media environment, it should be (at the least) an expectation that, proven or not, allegations and quotes from “undisclosed sources” would make their way into the headlines. It has even become normal nowadays for media personnel to voice their opinions of what may or may not be the case. But, when supposed credible media outlets (like the NY Daily News) turn their reports into tabloid-style, smut-drenched exploitation, we’ve reached an all-time low in so-called journalism. We won’t give them the benefit of a link on this one! Apparently competition for traffic-producing headlines has tainted the morals of far too many writers and their editors. Let’s be clear, we’re not saying Golf.com was wrong for quoting an unnamed source. They certainly have that right, and the responsibility that goes with it.
We’re certainly not condoning Dustin Johnson’s accused actions, if in fact, they are true. But, reaching celebrity status, in today’s frenzied social media driven news environment is like walking a tightrope. Every mistake seems to be magnified, headlined, sometimes slanted, and never forgotten. Not that alleged drug abuse is in any way a magnification. The thing we seem to have forgotten… is that celebrities (Dustin Johnson included) are still human beings. Drug use is wrong! Drug abuse is worse! It’s wrong for everything and everyone that it touches, and in this case golf, its fans, its players, and their families. It’s absolutely OK and right for journalists to accurately report the facts, no matter what they are. The facts should be reported without favoritism. But, in the absence of facts, some so-called journalists allege and skirt the facts and make their stories by dragging up the past and in the case of the NY Daily news, posting multiple pictures of DJs girlfriend. Really? That’s your best? To make matters worse, some call that a good “strategy.” That wasn’t all. This particular report went on to spread more (at this point) rumors about Dustin Johnson’s personal life. One headline reads, “Sex, drugs, and the PGA Tour”. Even the Huffington Post got in on the action with one of those headlines with “Allegedly” followed by a rumor that started from a Tweet.
At this point, we have to use the reference, “if these allegations are true”, because at this point, the reports in question were based upon rumors and quotes from “unnamed” sources. The only “known” facts are the statements from Dustin Johnson, his team, and the PGA Tour. Why not report the facts, and if you have to drag up everything else in his closet…at least wait until you have facts as a basis for a story.
The point behind this article is really not to report about Dustin Johnson’s announcement, what he did, or possibly did not do. It’s more about the way certain news outlets are choosing to obtain readers. What is happening to our society when the “shock-jock” approach is becoming OK across all media platforms? What has happened to make it OK to tee-off on celebrities before there’s proof of any allegations? Everyone deserves to hear, see, and read the truth. But, the rush to get the story has somehow given the truth a back seat. “Why wait for the truth,” seems to be the position. Even if the outcome seems obvious, what has happened with this story if proof of a degrading quality in journalism. The rumors, allegations, and the known facts are all very sad. Isn’t that enough?