Wednesday, December 2, 2009

You Can't Control The Story

Tiger Woods, I'm not just talking to you. I'm talking to anyone in the spotlight - celebrity, politician or ordinary person who makes it onto the news every now and then. If you think you want to be famous, or already are, there are some things you should know.

Don't Play Perfect
You cannot put images like this on your website and not expect people to think, "Aw! Look at them. Beautiful couple, adorable children, cute dogs. They look so happy!" But it doesn't end there. People wonder if you're really that happy. More people wonder how real your life is. You were in control here. At least you thought you were.

Don't Lie To The Press
Call us vultures, creeps or anything else. Trust me. We've heard it all before. But the bottom line is, if we hear rumors, we're going to check them out.

If we suspect you aren't being truthful, we will keep digging until we find the truth - or at least what sounds more reasonable than the story you're spinning.

Who would have thought this family might have some real problems?
Perfect little political family? Not so much.

When your husband (who happens to be the Governor of South Carolina) disappears, you can't expect people to believe he'd leave those cute kids on Father's Day weekend to get some peace and quiet and work. Oh, and saying he's "hiking the Appalachian trail" on a weekend when naked hikers are taking to the trail doesn't make the media stop asking questions. Let's face it, Mrs. Sanford. You had to know your husband was with another woman. Flights to South America aren't like a quick jaunt to the pay-by-the-hour motel to meet a mistress. I'm sorry you had to go through all of this publicly, but you helped cover it up. While you've dumped your dead weight husband, good luck with your book/clothing line - or whatever else will help you support your lovely children.

Keeping Silent Won't Get You Out Of The News
David Letterman is a man who treasures his privacy. You rarely see photos of him with his family. When scandal came knocking, he knew he had to do what many men before him had not had the courage (or wits) to do: fess up!

He admitted he had relationships with women on his staff. He explained there was a blackmail plot. He apologized to his wife. All in front of an audience and television cameras. He did it before millions of people. It was obviously a very difficult thing for him to do - not just because of what happened but because he knew there was no way for it to be swept under the rug (after all, criminal charges are public record).

Did he have to do that?

No.

Did he keep this story from being fodder for weeks on end?

Yes.

Sure, people still talk about it. They will at least until this case is resolved in the courts. Are people paying closer to Dave's marriage or relationship with co-workers? Absolutely. But after that confession, it almost feels like he'd let us know if he messed up again. And it seems like he'd be sorry then, too.

Lessons Learned
Don't put yourself out there and not expect people to want to bring you down. It's too easy for bloggers (like myself) or tabloids to spend time looking for ways to prove you're not the person we see. But if you know there is the potential for scandal, speaking up before the writers start digging could be the difference between coming out of this like Letterman, or people shaking their heads at you like many are with Tiger.

Go ahead. Say it's none of our business. I agree that what happens between a husband and wife should be kept between them. But when you're in the public light and you appear to have a falling out (come on - who believe Elin smashed the back window of that SUV to pull Tiger out of the car after seeing there was no damage to the driver's door?) and then keep mum, minds will wonder what really happened. If Tiger had spoken up before today, it would have prevented the alleged mistresses from selling their stories to tabloids, releasing voice mails or personal photos. Well, at least they wouldn't have been paid as much.

Also, as much as you readers/viewers might like to say you don't consider personal scandals news, you're buying magazines and books and watching the news and prime time specials that hype the heck out of them.

I'm not naive enough to believe that people in the public light are perfect. I don't believe anyone - myself included - is without sin. But I don't pretend to be the best at anything. I don't parade my life in front of the tabloids (they wouldn't pay a penny for my story anyway), then resent the same members of the press when they go looking for the real story. This is not the 1960s. When there were rumblings about JFK and Marilyn Monroe, it went largely unreported. You can bet if President Obama and Beyonce were rumored to be in a relationship, it would be just as hyped - if not more - than Tiger's story.

So, please, celebrities, I ask that you decide how public you want to be. Share your family with us, we'll publicly hope you're as healthy and happy as you appear (while, perhaps, privately hoping your life is just as challenging as ours). But if you keep your lovely family out of People magazine, off your website and out of interviews, I'll respect your privacy.

Until you keep quiet. Then, I'll keep your name in an internet search engine looking for the real story before you "break" it.
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