By on February 24, 2021

Tiger Woods. Tony Bowler/Shutterstock.com

Golf legend Tiger Woods was involved in a nasty one-car accident yesterday. He survived, but he suffered serious injuries, and his golf career might be in jeopardy.

Not long after my social feeds lit up with the news, I came across a tweet in which it was clear that he was driving a Genesis GV80. One that bore the logo of a recent golf tourney on its door. Woods had apparently been loaned the car by Genesis.

Car Twitter and certain auto journalists soon zoomed in on this detail. Fox Business wrote a post on the incident, filing it under its autos section and making mention of the GV80’s safety features.

I saw chatter on Facebook and Twitter about how maybe the GV80 saved Woods’ life, or how Genesis PR might have been initially worried that Tiger would die driving one of its products before being able to possibly be happy that its vehicle may have kept the outcome from being worse.

That was one journalist’s speculation, as posted to Facebook. Genesis’ actual statement was about neutral as could be, though it of course expressed sympathy and hopes for a speedy recovery.

I don’t bring this up to castigate journalists for speculating, in forums outside of their official media platforms, about certain aspects of the crash. I, too, was curious about what Tiger was driving, and I remain curious about how the crash happened and if the safety features of the GV80 – some of which are available on many vehicles across the price spectrum – prevented an even worse outcome. It’s natural to think about these things, and those of us who take an interest in cars will find our minds wandering there.

All that said, a quick Google shows that a fair amount of mainstream non-automotive publications, as well as several well-known car sites, made mention of the GV80’s involvement in the accident.

It makes sense for the mainstream pubs to make mention – it’s a key detail, even if we later learn that the crash would’ve occurred no matter what car Tiger was driving and/or if we learn that the basic safety features that even the cheapest econoboxes are equipped with would’ve saved his life.

What felt shady, at least to me and at least initially, was that automotive publications were using the GV80 as a news hook to give them a reason to scoop clicks on a story that would normally be outside their purview.

“Clickbait”, in other words.

Upon further reflection, however, I am not sure these blogs were wrong to cover the story. After all, an argument can be made that there’s news value in a car-centric blog telling its car-enthusiast audience what car was involved in the day’s biggest news story. And while “clickbait” is used as a pejorative term, there really is nothing wrong with a for-profit news site maximizing clicks in order to make money, provided it’s done ethically/the story is factually accurate.

Even non-profit news sites need clicks. Or subscriptions. Or newsstand purchases (yes, newsstands still exist, or at least they did the last time I was in NYC, waiting for the subway). Or in the case of broadcast, ratings.

Not to mention that journalists don’t just write stories for only ourselves to read. We write them for an audience. If we were just writing to ourselves, it would be called a diary.

This is why “clickbait”, as a term, drives me nuts. Every piece of journalism, from the hardest-hitting investigative report to the consumer-informing news story about last nights’ key City Hall vote to the fluffiest celebrity profile, is meant to be read. And not just for “clicks,” but to inform and/or entertain the reader.

And as Tim Marchman wrote, if everything is meant to be clicked, isn’t it all “clickbait”? I’m paraphrasing, but it’s a good point. Even the Oxford dictionary defines it this way: “(on the internet) content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page.”

Again, everything we in the media write is meant to get you to read it. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

This, of course, means that when readers shout “clickbait!”, they’re often using a lazy criticism that is not well thought through.

By now, you’re screaming at me. You’re thinking that of course you understand that journalists want readers to consume the content. You’re going to tell me that when you say “clickbait” you either mean true “fake news” – hoax news created to push a political agenda and/or profit – or you mean a situation where the headline is hyperbolic, and the story you clicked on, while factually accurate, doesn’t add enough value to be worth your click or the time you took to read it.

That’s the issue, though. No one disputes that there is some junk content out there, meant to simply generate clicks without adding much value. Although most digital journalists are learning, or should’ve learned by now, that quality content does better than junk. Readers stay on the page longer, which is good for advertisers; readers come back to the site more often; and there’s some evidence that Google punishes junk content by down-ranking it in search.

The issue isn’t that there’s junk content out there. The issue is that “clickbait” has become so overused that it no longer has meaning. One man’s well-written story is another’s “clickbait.”

A while back, a colleague posted on Facebook accusing a major newspaper of writing “clickbait” when it published a humorous piece about seeing a certain movie while stoned because he thought the paper should avoid the topic of weed. I read the piece and found it light-hearted and hilarious, even though I don’t partake in the whacky tobaccky. One man’s legit feature story, another man’s “clickbait.”

Some of you have accused me of “clickbait” when I’ve written opinion pieces that you disagreed with. But I didn’t write those pieces in a cynical attempt to farm clicks. Yes, I knew they’d likely get a lot of clicks. But my primary motivation was that I had a sincerely held belief/opinion, and a platform, and I wanted to express that opinion on said platform. And if some of were persuaded to agree with me, great.

(Some of you have also accused me of somehow turning TTAC into a site that pushes an agenda, but I assure you that when I write an op-ed, I am speaking only for myself, not TTAC as an institution. But that’s a topic for another day.)

Some of you will accuse me of clickbait just for this writing this post, or using Tiger’s name in the headline. Never mind that that is unavoidable in a piece about Tiger’s crash being used for clickbait.

We might not be able to agree on what clickbait is, but I can tell you what it isn’t. It’s not an op-ed you disagree with or a factually-accurate story that paints a company/political party/athlete/sports team/policy/whatever you support in an unflattering light. It’s not even a hyperbolic headline atop a story that does deliver what it promises, even if you’re let down. You knew, when you clicked, that you would of course believe what those seven monkeys jumping in the tree did.

This brings us out of the journalism 101 class and back to Tiger Woods and the world of automotive blogging. It’s not clickbait, necessarily, for an automotive Web site to put up a short post pointing out the GV80 was the car involved. But it feels like a stretch of a news peg.

That, however, is a separate argument. Maybe these outlets are stretching too far outside their purview in a bid for clicks in such a way that it leads to junk content, or maybe there’s actual value for the readership. I lean toward the latter, but a case could be made either way.

The point is, even if you agree with the former, that doesn’t make those stories clickbait. You’d probably say they are – after all, if you think there’s no good journalistic reason for a car blog to produce a post about the make of car in the crash, you’d say the blog is simply fishing for clicks – but that’s the point. If others can make a reasonable case that it’s newsworthy, the argument isn’t over whether it’s clickbait or not. The argument is over whether it is or isn’t newsworthy.

Something that isn’t newsworthy isn’t necessarily clickbait. This is why we need a new word for content that is objectively junk.

As for TTAC, we haven’t done a post on the car involved, as of yet anyway, because you’ve already heard elsewhere that it was a GV80. It’s not about whether it was within our purview or not – we just don’t have much to add to the conversation right now.

Maybe we’ll learn more about a specific safety feature on the GV80 that helped Tiger, or a specific failure that contributed to the crash. Right now, all we know is that the GV80 was the car he was driving, that it’s a luxury SUV laden with safety and driver-aid features, and that some of those features are available on most cars. Some, of course, are mandated by the government to be on all new cars.

This Automotive News story does, indeed, suggest that the SUV’s crashworthiness could’ve have saved the golf legend’s life.

I still don’t know if it was the “right” journalistic decision for car blogs to write posts singling out the car Tiger was wheeling when he wrecked. Maybe there’s news value, maybe there isn’t, and it’s just an SEO play.

Even in that latter case, even if an editor straight-up said “we should do a post on the GV80 being involved just to get some clicks”, it’s not “clickbait” in the pejorative sense. In the literal sense, sure. But not in the “junk” sense. A short, fact-based post that doesn’t break new news may make you roll your eyes, but it’s not necessarily junk.

That’s your TTAC journalism lesson for the day. Carry on, and hopefully, Woods recovers just fine, whether he ever swings a club in anger again or not.

[Image: Tony Bowler/Shutterstock.com]

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56 Comments on “On Tiger Woods, Auto Journalism, and Clickbait...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Everyone knows that he would have walked away from a crash in a Subaru. Love.

    Seriously, I’m sure a couple dozen cars would have done just as well as the GV80 in this accident. Soon enough, Genesis will see their sales spike due to its mention.

    I wouldn’t expect Tiger to be driving an older car, but as soon as I saw the model year (2021), and the time of day (7:00-ish AM), I figured the issue was with the driver. Hopefully it was error, and not impairment.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      My purely speculative guess is that, impaired or not, he was driving too fast. I base this on the description of him traveling downhill and a tweet I saw that showed the path of the GV80. It looked like he couldn’t make a corner and plowed off into the trees.

      As we all know, even the best safety nannies won’t prevent that.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        The latest news says:
        1. No signs of impairment, so no tests for it and no charges.
        2. The car’s black box will be reviewed.
        3. He flew off a dangerous corner, and this road has had 13 accidents since January.
        4. He was headed to a filming date nearby, hence the early hour.

        Simply put, he was probably speeding and lost it. But he’s pretty messed up from the accident.

        • 0 avatar
          RedRocket

          One minor correction: no immediately apparent signs of impairment at the scene, i.e. no open containers, no alcohol on the breath, no stink of weed detected. Blood samples taken at the hospital will determine whether prescription meds or other meds were a factor.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            “Blood samples taken at the hospital” only if legally collected. One has to be “read their rights” if law enforcement wants to go down that path. A routine drug screen typically determines the presence or absence of a substance not amount. Many things can cause false positives.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          It’s a dangerous road. It presents to drivers like a freeway, and they’re tempted to go freeway speed despite the 45 mph limit, but it has some turns a good deal tighter than you’d find on a freeway. IMO whenever there are this many crashes part of the fault is with the municipalities involved, which should have added traffic controls, narrowed lanes, or otherwise made design changes that would cause drivers not to think they could go 70+ mph.

      • 0 avatar
        Flipper35

        If he were driving an Elise he would have made the corner! :)

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Imagine if the Robbie Moroso crash had occurred in the era of social media. That one reverberated in GM because he was driving a GM owned vehicle.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Is this more “Sponsored content”?

  • avatar
    ajla

    My thoughts:

    -Hyperbolic or sensational “clickbait” headlines are beneath anyone wanting to be taken seriously. If writers are going to insult their readers like that then they shouldn’t be offended by people thinking they’re a hack.

    -Controversy itself is not clickbait. Off-topic editorials are clickbait though. CAFE or ICE bans or the Jeep Cherokee name issue are controversial but within the scope of what TTAC does. However, if you’re writing about abortion because Kia introduced a new minivan or writing about the Kurds because oil prices went up then you’re doing a disservice to people wanting to read a car website. If you just want to shoot the breeze with us because we’re fun to talk to then start a personal blog or keep it to the comments. I’d say a good rule is that at least 60% of an editorial’s content needs to be about cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      Your first point is well-taken. I simply think we need a better word for headlines that mislead and leave the reader let down.

      As for point two, I agree in the abstract. But it goes back to the question of what is newsworthy for a car blog? Sometimes that’s obvious, but if it’s not, and you disagree that something is newsworthy, that doesn’t make it clickbait. Which, again, is why we need a better word.

      I don’t know if 60 percent is the magic number. I think it depends on the topic. Sometimes the news peg is thinner than other times, so to speak.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “But it goes back to the question of what is newsworthy for a car blog?”

        I honestly don’t think it is as much of a tightrope as you are making it out to be.

        “Covid is causing supplier shutdowns in the industry” is newsworthy. “Covid is changing the way people buy cars” is newsworthy. “Here’s why masking laws are bad” or “Here’s why restrictions about holiday gatherings are good” are not newsworthy just because Covid has a tangential relationship to cars and you use that in your opening paragraph. If you want to talk about those other things because you find them personally interesting then I’m sure it’ll come up in the comments.

        60% may not be a “magic number” but it isn’t a terrible one to aim for either. I’d also say that if you’re needing to write something like “So what does this have to do with cars?” or “this may not have much to do with cars but…” then it probably doesn’t need to be posted.

        • 0 avatar
          Tim Healey

          Thing is, newsworthy is subjective. So you can disagree that something we run is newsworthy for a car blog. But that doesn’t make it clickbait. This is why I think we need a better word for truly junk content, and a better way to discuss whether a certain topic — in this case, Tiger Woods crashing — is newsworthy for outlets that cover specific industries.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I wouldn’t get bogged down in semantics. Declaring “this isn’t ‘clickbait’ it’s just poor writing!” isn’t really a winning argument.

            Also keep the Principal Skinner meme in mind.
            tinyurl.com/e5j4whc

          • 0 avatar
            C5 is Alive

            Funny, a much different “Simpsons” reference came to mind as I scrolled through this banal 1,694-word screed.

            https://tinyurl.com/uvr8dhbe

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      “you’re writing about abortion because Kia introduced a new minivan”

      Believe it or not…I read an article where some pastor blamed EV’s and fuel economy standards for decreased birth rates.
      Buy minivans and suburban’s and we’ll be back to big families.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    The obvious next step for any responsible investigative journalist is to obtain a Cadillac XT5, a Lincoln Aviator, and at least three other midsize luxury SUVs so that they can be properly driven at high speed over a meridian and rolled so that it can be seen how badly the drivers would be injured in competitive products. Why hasn’t anyone done that yet?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Excellent idea. The candidate vehicles could be part of a Buy-Drive-Burn vote.

      Hey, at least Tiger wasn’t driving the 2021 Rogue Early Edition with 2-star safety ratings.

      https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2021/02/2021-nissan-rogue-becomes-perfect-suv-for-people-with-thrill-seeking-friends/

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      Somewhere in Ann Arbor, a phone rings.

      There was once a time, a time that ended before I finished high school, that Car Und Driver would’ve set up some version of the test you describe.

      • 0 avatar
        namesakeone

        Of course, C&D would return the SUVs to their manufacturer destroyed, as they did the Datsun Maxima after they drove it through four feet of flood water in Baja.

      • 0 avatar
        Matt Foley

        Those were the days. Remember the story on drunk driving in which the editors did a shot, ran an autocross course, did another shot, repeat, until they were incapable of driving? Actually pretty informative. Then they did a similar test with marijuana. And the mid-80s sedan comparo where they drove around Mexico, lost a Maxima in a flooded arroyo, and ran a Dodge 600 into a cow. Must have been a fun place to work.

        • 0 avatar
          namesakeone

          I remember that. I was referring to that with my reply. I wonder if the magazine is allowed back in Baja (even though only one staff member–Rich Ceppos–that was on that trip is still on C&D’s staff). As of 1993, they were banned.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    I wonder if what’s left of the Tiger Woods Genesis will (once the investigation is complete) be spirited from Genesis (or their carrier) and escape the crusher, so it can be properly sold as “THE TIGER WOODS KILLER TRUCK!” on eBay or somewhere else.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Bring a Trailer is gonna be full of GV80s like it’s full of “OJ” Broncos.

  • avatar
    pb35

    So is the IS500 going to BE a classic or not? ;)

    • 0 avatar
      Lightspeed

      IS500, it’s looking to be a heck of a car. The M-Car/AMG crowd will never let it be a classic though.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Among people who don’t require that cars be German, the IS500 will be the 500E of this decade. If I could live with a small sedan I’d probably be harassing the Lexus dealer about it right now.

      • 0 avatar
        pb35

        The IS500 is seriously making me rethink my decision to order a CT5 Blackwing. The Caddy will all but certainly be a classic, though.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          If you have the bank account for the CT5BW then get it.

          I’m pretty sure I’ll be buying the IS500 but there’s at least a Camry SE of price difference to the Cadillac and I only have a pleb $60K budget.

          • 0 avatar
            jack4x

            With the high likelihood of this being the last V8 sedan I’m able to buy, the Lexus durability reputation might carry more weight than it otherwise would.

        • 0 avatar
          A Scientist

          Agree with ajla. While the IS500 looks super awesome, and I’d take one in a New York minute, I’d still rather have CT5BW for sure.

          • 0 avatar
            pb35

            My ’18 CTS-V has been at the dealer more times this past summer than I care to mention. It’s fixed now, I think.

            That Lexus reliability is looking real good about now but I usually don’t make my purchases based on rational decisions. That V sure is fun though.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          The Lexus has an autotragic transmission though guys. You definitely don’t want to slum it with me on your 6-figure budgets.

  • avatar
    A Scientist

    Tbh, the issues brought up here don’t bother me nearly as much as the increasing political flame wars occurring in the comment section. I migrated here a few years ago from that “car-website-which-shall-not-be-named” because I got so exhausted with that crap.

    I just want to make fun of idiots who buy 10 year old German cars. Idiots like me :)

  • avatar
    smartascii

    “… to the consumer-informing news story about last nights’ key City Hall vote…” And here is the crux of the issue. We’ve replaced the concept of “person” or “citizen” with “consumer.” It’s a term that evokes an indiscriminate, gaping maw, sucking down whatever it’s fed in exchange for the almighty dollar. And once you do that (not *you*, Tim, but generally), you move from delivering an excellent product that people love, the natural consequence of which is a profit, to leveraging idiots for short-term gains, which I’d argue is not sustainable, but increasingly is the only way to succeed, since “success” is measured in a way that makes any other approach very difficult.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      Well, have we replaced citizen with consumer, though? Newspapers have been for-profit forever. The internet didn’t change that the media is a business, it just changed how readership was measured. Circulation numbers and subscriber bases mattered in the old days.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    the styling decision with the lines in the head/taillights told me right off the bat it was a Genesis. so at least they have that going for them?

  • avatar
    JMII

    Famous guy crashes so of course the vehicle in question is going to be highlighted. Its likely the first question that pops up along with “where?” and “how?” since we already know the “who?”. I think the main difference here is most people have no idea what a Genesis GV80 is so some clarification and explanation is being added.

    I know clickbait when I see it and none of the articles I’ve seen about this accident have crossed into that territory… yet. Or maybe I’m just not looking in the right places – I’m not on Facebook or watching Scotty Kilmer YouTube videos.

  • avatar
    MKizzy

    It’s logical why Woods’ accident would garner such widespread media coverage (at least for a day or so), including the plethora of “clickbait” articles on various websites. Unfortunately, besides the usual grousing from readers about the media coverage, we’ve also had doosies from Twitter ax grinders demanding Woods be canceled for his past indiscretions to some guy on an EV aficionado website blaming the GV80 because as an ICE vehicle, it was subject to its engine crushing passengers in frontal collisions. Good grief.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    The comment by the police officer that “the vehicle saved his life” or words to that effect was not particularly responsible IMO. The seatbelt being used in conjunction with the airbags certainly may have saved his life, but that is not something unique to this vehicle. There has already been some commentary on some message boards that other vehicles designed differently may well have minimized the intrusion of the engine into the passenger compartment and instead directed it further downward resulting in less distortion of the passenger compartment firewall/floor and would have meant severe leg injuries than what occurred here. And god forbid that Tiger, when he is finally able to talk about what happened, invokes the “uncontrolled acceleration/brake failure” explanation.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “The comment by the police officer that “the vehicle saved his life” or words to that effect was not particularly responsible IMO.”

      No, that wasn’t irresponsible at all. The vehicle did save his life.

      What’s irresponsible is how you chose to read those words. You read them as “without that specific vehicle he would not be alive today”. The story didn’t say that; you incorrectly inferred that.

  • avatar
    RRocket

    The articles here that ARE clickbait are the “Best” articles: Best Headlight Restoration Kits, Best Windshield Repair Kits, etc

    I’d have no problems with these articles if you actually tested them all yourselves…which doesn’t seem to always be the case.

    The goal here is to get people to click to the outside retailer links more than reporting of the actual product.

    In other words, clickbait.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    @Tim Healey,

    You don’t listen, but I’ll give it another shot. (We’ll go for ‘painfully honest’ since this is the Truth, right?)

    Your opinion regarding automotive journalism would be more meaningful if you were a good automotive journalist. As it is, you aren’t a very good writer and you aren’t a very good editor.

    If you want to be a better writer:
    a) Think about what you want to say, and
    b) THEN say it

    Say it once. Don’t ‘work it out’ in front of your audience. Don’t give us “Tim Healey Stream of Consciousness” – it’s painful to read. I still don’t know what you meant to say here. Do you?

    Watch any of the documentaries about the preparation Jerry Seinfeld does before telling a new joke. Read “Making Movies” by Sidney Lumet and focus on the homework and preparation he did before the cameras rolled.

    The more you re-run the “Best” posts with my comments pre-loaded from months ago, the less I like you. If you ever want to turn these into something actually useful, I have some ideas, but it would require some planning and coordination. [Second time I’ve stated this.]

    (In a world of people who are generally disconnected from mechanical things, it takes a special level of mechanical ineptitude to run a Leaf completely out of juice. I worked at an OEM with a guy who *almost* managed it.)

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    “And while “clickbait” is used [as] a pejorative term,…”

    Just a wee edit.

  • avatar
    Mackie

    Who cares? Tiger will be fine, he has the money for a full rebuild. Or he can just sit back and enjoy his riches in optimal comfort for the rest of his life.

  • avatar
    Imagefont

    Perhaps it was a case of distracted driving.
    Were any hookers injured in the crash?

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    To me click-bait is more bait and switch with the headline.

    “Want to know how to get more (female body part beginning with P) than you can handle – CLICK to find out”

    Inside is how to adopt cats from the local animal shelter.

    That is click-bait to me.

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