There’s a fine line when it comes to talking about what you do for a living and how your personal life plays a part in it, whether you’re a morning DJ on a classic rock radio station or one of the United States’ best skiers. But we, as a culture, gravitate toward the bigger "trending" story. We no longer care about what happened a year ago, a month ago, a week ago -- we care what’s happening in the moment. After all, if we really cared, we would understand and place more importance on the fact that the city of New Orleans is still reeling from a hurricane that hit our shores nearly nine years ago. But that was so last week and we no longer care.
Instead, we defer to the "trending" topics -- Justin Bieber, Kardashians and videos of dogs pigging out like humans. But nothing is hotter right now than the Olympics
One of the big stories coming out of the Olympics this week is the controversy surrounding Bode Miller. Before I go and defend Bode, I need to say that this guy has brought upon himself some heat over the years, with his brash statements and a cocky attitude. His skiing style was also maligned for its reckless bomber style that pushed every run to the brink of disaster, but that may have also been a big part of the reason we focused on him. Recently, however, his attempts have not been going his way and the criticisms became quite harsh. Miller’s had a tough time at the 2014 games in Sochi; in his first three events he finished as high as seventh and as low as 12th. With less and less focus on his athletic ability, the "trend" began to turn to his brother who passed away in April of 2013, and how that may have been affecting him.
For me, here’s where the line gets crossed between personal and professional. I understand that someone’s family member dying can have an impact, and I think, as a reporter, you’re allowed to ask the question once, maybe twice, but keep them softballs. During a post-race interview (in case you missed it) NBC reporter Christin Cooper pressed and pressed Bode Miller about his brother (who had also hoped to be at these games competing as a snowboarder) until Bode was unable to speak and was reduced to tears. He started off fine; he was visibly upset but able to keep it together. But then, Cooper kept pressing and it got to the point where both my wife and I were yelling at the television for her to stop. We’re not the only ones; I’ve talked to dozens of people who had the same visceral reaction to the interview. So it begs the question: When did it become a sport to report the sports?
Now if this was live TV, I could write it off to bad judgment under fire, but it wasn’t. NBC had several hours to review the footage and edit it to be favorable for prime time viewing. That would still not have made up for toying with the raw emotions of Bode Miller, but it would have prevented me from making a Christin Cooper voodoo doll and jabbing pins in it.
Let’s face it, we love that moment of pure emotion, and we all wanted Bode to say, "I did this for my brother." At the end of the day, it was his brother and entirely up to him how he handled himself and what he said. But then NBC defended the action by saying "it was a part of the story." I beg to differ. It was a sidebar to the story and nothing more.
I liken NBC’s defense to the discount site Groupon’s defense of calling Alexander Hamilton a president (he wasn’t). Groupon then releases a statement saying, "We’re entitled to our opinion," when an oops would have sufficed. All NBC had to do was edit and it’s all avoidable. Instead they air it, and instead of agreeing that it went a little too far, it "trends" and I get 700 words to basically say what the hell is up with that?