Opinion: Sensationalism abound in Aaron Hernandez coverage

4/27/2017 | G. Michael Dobbs

Category: April

I understand the controversial concepts and discussions about tragedy, forgiveness and working toward redemption that might result from a story about a murder conviction, but what I can’t get over is how some media outlets reacted to the suicide of Aaron Hernandez.

What Hernandez did is seen as unforgivable by many – and rightly so – but many people would see his suicide as also a waste.  Perhaps some folks would see his self-inflicted death as some sort of justice, while others might see it as just another squandering of life and potential.

What I was astonished about was the media coverage that sent Western Massachusetts-based reporters scurrying to various locations to gin up coverage after the suicide. I saw one report from in front of a home in which the convicted football star once lived. What was the meaning of that?

Another story was announced that a barber who cut Hernandez’s hair was willing to speak. Huh?

Is the murder trail of prominent football player news? Absolutely. Is his death news? Certainly. How these stories are covered is the issue.

Sensationalism is nothing new in my profession. It’s been going on ever since newspapers have been published. What concerns me, though, is we haven’t learned anything. Audiences keep eating it up and news outlets feed it to them in large helpings.

In this click-bait era of journalism the tradition seems to be accelerated.

Perhaps this is simply part of the human condition that defies the best intentions of some. 

Good luck

My friend and colleague Susan Kaplan of New Public Radio has been good enough to invite me onto their airwaves to record my rants for her program “The Short List” on a regular basis.

It’s always a pleasure and privilege for me as I love radio – see this month’s Prime for my love letter to the medium – and Susan has made the experience a lot of fun.

It’s too bad the post-recording discussions aren’t aired as well!

I first met Susan when she was the host for “Watercooler” on WGBY TV a few years ago and I was a regular guest on that program.

Susan will be joining the newsroom at WGBH in Boston. She has been a reporter at NEPR since 1995, and host of All Things Considered for the past seven years.

I’ve been told “The Short List” will continue and I wish Susan the best of luck in this new chapter of her career.

Roast postponed

Hmm, I hadn’t intended for most of the column to be about local media, but sometimes it writes itself. Another friend and colleague Peter Goonan is under the weather and that has necessitated postponing the annual roast hosted by the Valley Press Club. Peter is the heart and soul of the roast, at which members of the press can say hopefully hilarious things about elected officials and vice versa.

It’s all in good fun – politicians love us right? – and raises money for our scholarship program.

I’ve known Pete since the late 1970s when we both worked at The Westfield News. Since we both cover many Springfield City Hall events there is a lot of needling between us about being rivals. It’s all in good fun, though. Pete is a great guy and a fine reporter. Naturally I wish him a speedy recovery.

Someone is paying attention

I’ve been watching the new season of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” on Netflix over the weekend and there was a reference made about the Hartford Yard Goats baseball team. Clearly one of the writers is from New England!

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