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A narrative perspective on the press coverage of Tiger Woods: temporary fall from grace of the hero or a trickster forever?

Tim Hoebeke (UGent) , Annelore Deprez (UGent) and Karin Raeymaeckers (UGent)
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Abstract
From a storytelling perspective, journalism is considered to be a powerful myth making force. Journalists are seen as modern minstrels, continuing a storytelling tradition that started in the oral tradition (e.g. Aitchison, 2007). News stories can be compared with societal narratives that offer “exemplary models that instruct and inform” (Lule, 2005, p. 104), and which are based on archetypal structures. One of the most common archetypes in the news is the hero. Sport journalism and sport in general is the domain par excellence for modern day heroes, although media scholars are divided concerning the question if the modern age still produces heroes, e.g. Boorstin (1992) and Drucker (2008), who claim that the celebrification process means the death of the traditional hero. However, for other scholars it is clear that heroes still exist, and that sports is one of the most fruitful domains for the creation of heroes (Parry, 2009; Whannel, 2002). Tiger Woods has been one of the most prominent figures in the international sports scene the past decennium and is, according to Vande Berg (1998), the embodiment of the return of the traditional hero. Academic research on Woods has focused itself mainly on race questions (e.g. Cashmore, 2008; Dawkins, 2004; Hall, 2001; King, 2006; Roberson, 2003; Yu, 2003), but also on his marketing value (Farrell, Karels, Monfort & McClatchey, 2000; Yu, 2002), and media portrayal (Davie, King & Leonard, 2010; Giacobbi & DeSensi, 1999). This paper is aimed at gaining more insight in the media portrayal of this golf phenomenon. To do this, we selected a qualitative method to investigate how Tiger Woods fits into the archetypal hero story. We constructed an objective and replicable hero grid, based on the works of Campbell (1993), Williams (1994) and Lule (2001) on the hero narrative, using nine narrative sequences grouped in three phases (rise; temporary fall from grace; resurrection) and three constituent components (celebrity status; role model; social values and positive features). We look closely at the reporting on Tiger Woods before his sex scandal, the reporting on the scandal itself and its aftermath. Our results show that Tiger Woods was in a minor way depicted by the media as a hero until the scandal broke out. As other scholars already mentioned (e.g. Sanchez, 2000), perfection is not a sine qua non for heroism. Heroes have their own idiosyncrasies, make mistakes, and yield to temptations. True heroes however, are forgiven by the public for their mistakes and return stronger than ever. This study shows that this is thus far not the case for Tiger Woods and that he is treated by the media as a trickster and a fallen hero trapped in a media scandal. Asking for forgiveness in a public statement did not suffice. We conclude that if Tiger Woods wants to reclaim his position as a traditional hero, he has to be competitive again, achieving great results and breaking records. Still, because of the lack of resonance the golf sport has in Belgium, Tiger Woods is more a celebrity figure than a sports hero.
Keywords
narrative, heroes, sports, journalism

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Chicago
Hoebeke, Tim, Annelore Deprez, and Karin Raeymaeckers. 2011. “A Narrative Perspective on the Press Coverage of Tiger Woods: Temporary Fall from Grace of the Hero or a Trickster Forever?” In IAMCR, Proceedings. CJS.
APA
Hoebeke, T., Deprez, A., & Raeymaeckers, K. (2011). A narrative perspective on the press coverage of Tiger Woods: temporary fall from grace of the hero or a trickster forever? IAMCR, Proceedings. Presented at the IAMCR 2011 : Cities, creativity and connectivity, CJS.
Vancouver
1.
Hoebeke T, Deprez A, Raeymaeckers K. A narrative perspective on the press coverage of Tiger Woods: temporary fall from grace of the hero or a trickster forever? IAMCR, Proceedings. CJS; 2011.
MLA
Hoebeke, Tim, Annelore Deprez, and Karin Raeymaeckers. “A Narrative Perspective on the Press Coverage of Tiger Woods: Temporary Fall from Grace of the Hero or a Trickster Forever?” IAMCR, Proceedings. CJS, 2011. Print.
@inproceedings{1910917,
  abstract     = {From a storytelling perspective, journalism is considered to be a powerful myth making force. Journalists are seen as modern minstrels, continuing a storytelling tradition that started in the oral tradition (e.g. Aitchison, 2007). News stories can be compared with societal narratives that offer {\textquotedblleft}exemplary models that instruct and inform{\textquotedblright} (Lule, 2005, p. 104), and which are based on archetypal structures. One of the most common archetypes in the news is the hero. Sport journalism and sport in general is the domain par excellence for modern day heroes, although media scholars are divided concerning the question if the modern age still produces heroes, e.g. Boorstin (1992) and Drucker (2008), who claim that the celebrification process means the death of the traditional hero. However, for other scholars it is clear that heroes still exist, and that sports is one of the most fruitful domains for the creation of heroes (Parry, 2009; Whannel, 2002). Tiger Woods has been one of the most prominent figures in the international sports scene the past decennium and is, according to Vande Berg (1998), the embodiment of the return of the traditional hero. Academic research on Woods has focused itself mainly on race questions (e.g. Cashmore, 2008; Dawkins, 2004; Hall, 2001; King, 2006; Roberson, 2003; Yu, 2003), but also on his marketing value (Farrell, Karels, Monfort \& McClatchey, 2000; Yu, 2002), and media portrayal (Davie, King \& Leonard, 2010; Giacobbi \& DeSensi, 1999). This paper is aimed at gaining more insight in the media portrayal of this golf phenomenon. To do this, we selected a qualitative method to investigate how Tiger Woods fits into the archetypal hero story. We constructed an objective and replicable hero grid, based on the works of Campbell (1993), Williams (1994) and Lule (2001) on the hero narrative, using nine narrative sequences grouped in three phases (rise; temporary fall from grace; resurrection) and three constituent components (celebrity status; role model; social values and positive features). We look closely at the reporting on Tiger Woods before his sex scandal, the reporting on the scandal itself and its aftermath. Our results show that Tiger Woods was in a minor way depicted by the media as a hero until the scandal broke out. As other scholars already mentioned (e.g. Sanchez, 2000), perfection is not a sine qua non for heroism. Heroes have their own idiosyncrasies, make mistakes, and yield to temptations. True heroes however, are forgiven by the public for their mistakes and return stronger than ever. This study shows that this is thus far not the case for Tiger Woods and that he is treated by the media as a trickster and a fallen hero trapped in a media scandal. Asking for forgiveness in a public statement did not suffice. We conclude that if Tiger Woods wants to reclaim his position as a traditional hero, he has to be competitive again, achieving great results and breaking records. Still, because of the lack of resonance the golf sport has in Belgium, Tiger Woods is more a celebrity figure than a sports hero.},
  author       = {Hoebeke, Tim and Deprez, Annelore and Raeymaeckers, Karin},
  booktitle    = {IAMCR, Proceedings},
  keyword      = {narrative,heroes,sports,journalism},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Istanbul, Turkey},
  pages        = {23},
  publisher    = {CJS},
  title        = {A narrative perspective on the press coverage of Tiger Woods: temporary fall from grace of the hero or a trickster forever?},
  year         = {2011},
}