Why the handling of the Bill Haas accident has left a sour tasteFebruary 15, 2018 The Scoop
It doesn't matter if we know all the facts, there are clicks to be had. In this week's Slam, Alex Perry explains why those meant to be protecting our reputation have let us down
You’ve probably seen that Bill Haas was involved in a car accident in Los Angeles ahead of the Genesis Open.
He was fortunate enough to escape with minor injuries and was released a few hours after the accident. Sadly, the driver of the Ferrari in which the six-time PGA Tour champion was traveling was killed. A woman in the other car involved is still in hospital.
It’s incidents like this that really highlight just how low people will stoop when it comes to reporting what happened. Like it or not, it’s the nature of the beast these days.
But this desperate bid to be first with the news comes at a cost: facts.
While the news industry is riddled with this disease, it is something that has very rarely ventured into golf’s largely respected media.
One brand sent several tweets and an email newsletter declaring “Bill Haas involved in fatal car accident”.
Now, while not factually incorrect, it is horrendously misleading, because it suggests there is a chance Haas may have been the person who perished, which is incredibly disrespectful to the person who actually did.
Then it gets really messy. At around 1.30pm UK time on Wednesday, the PGA Tour released a statement to confirm Haas had been injured in an accident on Tuesday evening, but by the early hours of Wednesday was on his way home to South Carolina to recover from “minor swelling and pain in his legs”.
So you can imagine my disbelief when roughly 10 minutes later, another golf publication tweeted: “BREAKING NEWS: Bill Haas seriously injured in car accident involving Luke Wilson”. That headline was also sent out on two email newsletters.
Shall we start with the three huge factual inaccuracies?
1. It’s not “BREAKING NEWS” when it happened some 22 hours previous and has been all anyone in golf has been talked about.
2. He was not “seriously injured”.
3. Actor Luke Wilson, himself a keen golfer, was not “involved”. He was the first on the scene.
Celebs! Death! Clicks!
The Daily Mailification of our respected industry is concerning and unwelcome. We are golf magazines. We all hire well-respected and creative journalists.
Our job is not to sensationalise news, but to add to it; to give an opinion; to create fresh content for our dedicated readerships. Reacting to hearsay is not our role in this landscape, despite its ever-changing nature.
No one is coming to us for updates on a car accident on the other side of the world, in the same way they’re not going to the Daily Mail for swing tips.
This treatment of the Haas incident is a symptom of a worrying trend – and I feel way it will stop is if we call out those guilty of shamelessly chasing the clicks.
I’m sure you’ll join us all here at NCG in wishing Haas and anyone else affected by this accident well in their recovery, and offering our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased.