Dec 16, 2012; Foxboro, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (81) on the side line during the third quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Gillette Stadium. The San Francisco 49ers won 41-34. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Hernandez and Big Stories in The Digital Age

Circumstances surrounding a murder investigation that involves current New England Patriots and former Florida Gators tight end Aaron Hernandez remain unclear. It could be days, weeks, months before details of Odin Lloyd’s murder are known.

Still, the investigation has captivated a wide audience, hungry for up-to-date coverage. Media outlets would be remiss if they didn’t comply.

In big stories such as the Aaron Hernandez investigation, there is so much fluidity. There is also a sensitive nature to the situation. This isn’t something as frivolous as a free agent signing, so reports that miss the mark are far more significant. Stories of heavy gravity such as this walk a fine line: there’s a need for diligence in news-gathering. Yet, there’s a demand for coverage.

An answer of we’ll know what we know when we know it won’t suffice. There’s a void to be filled.

One such instance: The Orlando Sentinel‘s Mike Bianchi broaches Hernandez being questioned in a 2007 shooting while the tight end was at Florida. Certainly there’s relevance to the ongoing story.

Hernandez was not charged with any crime though, and the circumstances of his questioning are mysterious. Bianchi goes into no detail, because Hernandez divulged none. Maybe something sinister was afoot, which such a report would imply when presented in conjunction with the current investigation.

Then again, not being charged with a crime is perhaps the more important take away than his being questioned. Either way, the 2007 story surfacing at this time, and in this context serves as a stopgap to satiate readers’ curiosities.

The story also reaches a much larger audience because of the nature of digital reporting and blogging. Dr. Saturday runs Bianchi’s story to the Yahoo! readership, The Kansas City Star links it to its readership, and so on. It’s not an indictment of Bianchi’s story, but rather an interesting example of how quickly digital media can spread information.

Traditional beat reporters and bloggers have a symbiotic relationship. Without those intrepid reporters on the scene, there’s no news to be discussed and examined. In turn, blogs direct more readers to beat writers’ work.

The digital age has democratized media at an unprecedented level. That means more outlets, which in turn means greater competition to reach consumers. Imagine the street corners in the early 20th century when newsies shouted to passersby in an effort to sell the paper. Were the internet a 1920s street corner, there would be several hundred newsies shoving one another for positioning, like adolescent offensive linemen, all selling similar core information.

Standing out in this environment means staying current, but also being unique; finding an angle to a heavily-covered story no one else has. Sometimes, this lends itself to absurd content. Don’t be surprised if some writer out there uses Aaron Hernandez and this investigation as a smear against Urban Meyer, for example.

Such opinions are inevitable, particularly when cold, hard news trickles in slowly. This is one such case. The slower concrete news comes in, the more faintly relevant or purely speculative narratives dominate coverage.

Tags: Florida Gators Football Media

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