Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Why Jimmie Johnson's surgery is news

Amy K. Marbach/Flickr
Six-time Nascar champion Jimmie Johnson revealed on Sunday that he underwent offseason surgery to repair three non-sports related hernias, a procedure that he acknowledged affected his preparation for the 2014 season.

New information on a popular public figure? By any measure -- in just about any newsroom in the country -- that would qualify as news. And yet, on Monday there was some dispute among fans, Johnson and even a few members of the media as to whether it should have been viewed that way.

Here's what Johnson told the media after he won the Sprint Cup race at Dover on Sunday: "I didn't realize it was one, a secret, or two, public information. Have you had any surgeries lately? Is there any procedures -- when did you have your teeth cleaned?"

To which I would answer ...

Who cares? It isn't newsworthy if a reporter has hernia surgery or teeth cleaned because nobody gives a hoot about what happens to us. We're not public figures. At least, most of us aren't. It's news if Robin Roberts has surgery. It's not news if USA Today's Jeff Gluck does.

Danica Patrick's relationship with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was news when it was first revealed, and Jeff Gordon's bad back at Charlotte in May was news. Winning championships is news. Running half-marathons is news. Falling off the roof of a golf cart and breaking your wrist is news. Having offseason surgery is news. Negative or positive, embarrassing or enriching, it's news if you are a public figure.

And in retrospect, even Johnson seemed to agree:

If Johnson had been forced to undergo surgery during the Chase last season, it would have generated far more significant news coverage and headlines. Because the surgery was after the season and ultimately did not cost Johnson a playoff spot for 2014, the surgery wasn't major news.  But Johnson was the one who said it impacted his preparation for 2014. So from a journalist's perspective, asking Johnson about the surgery and writing it was a no-brainer.

The only question is why reporting this story was ever even a question at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment