SBD/June 27, 2013/Media

Aaron Hernandez Arrest: ESPN In Tough Spot Balancing On-, Off-Field Matters

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ESPN discussed whether Hernandez' arrest shows the NFL has an image problem
ESPN is put in a tough spot when it comes to stories like the Aaron Hernandez murder charge because it "invariably must juggle its status as a news organization with ... folks who care more about roster changes than police blotters," according to Brian Lowry of VARIETY. ESPN "to its credit" during various incarnations of "SportsCenter" yesterday asked "whether the National Football League has an image problem." Seeing that ESPN "pays billions to the league for the right to televise games and breathlessly chronicles its every move, wondering aloud about the NFL being damaged by some of its negative publicity would appear to strike a blow on behalf of journalistic independence." But the net "feels a bit over its head dealing with a story of this kind, while news networks like CNN are a trifle out of their element." ESPN’s Chris Mortensen mentioned that 29 NFL players "have been arrested since the Super Bowl, but quickly downplayed that figure statistically given the number of pros employed by the league." Lowry noted there was not "any immediate mention during the time I was watching of Ray Lewis," who was charged with murder in '00 and is set to join the net as an NFL analyst this season. The net is "going to have to get accustomed to being about more than just the customary wins and losses" (VARIETY.com, 6/26). Meanwhile, the Patriots had been posting updates on their website about the Hernandez story, and Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw asked, "How many teams are going to do that about one of their own players in trouble?" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 6/26).

ESPN DEDICATING RESOURCES TO STORY: Last night's edition of ESPN's "SportsCenter" began at 10:30pm ET and led with the Hernandez arrest, with ESPN's Michele Steele reporting live from Hernandez' home and Jeremy Schaap live from the jail where the TE is being held. The first non-Hernandez report was approximately 30-minutes into the broadcast and was the back-and-forth comments between Yankees GM Brian Cashman and 3B Alex Rodriguez about the player returning to the field. The 6:00pm "SportsCenter" also dedicated roughly the first half-hour to Hernandez and included reports from Steele, Schaap and ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss from Patriots HQs. The arrest also is being covered on the national news outlets. "CBS This Morning" made Hernandez its second story today, dedicating a little more than four minutes to a live report from Don Dahler outside the jail and a live interview with "The NFL Today" host James Brown. ABC's "GMA" and NBC's "Today" first covered Hernandez at the bottom of the opening hour. The arrest was the second report on ABC's "World News" last night and the third story on NBC's "Nightly News." CBS' "Evening News" noted the arrest about 23 minutes into the broadcast (THE DAILY).

BALANCING ACT: SI.com’s Richard Deitsch yesterday chronicled the TV coverage of Hernandez' arraignment on his Twitter feed and wrote, "NFL Net continues to show charges being presented live. ESPN switches off live footage for analysis with Roger Cossack. Brutal judgement. … That's as brutal news judgement as I've seen in some time. And for ESPN management suits who disagree with me, check my @ responses. … NFL Net has stayed live the whole way. No breaks. Well done.” CBSSports.com’s Bruce Feldman wrote, “Good job NFL Network staying with this Hernandez hearing. It's obviously not a great look for the league."

SCHAAP'S SLIP OF THE TOUNGE
: In Milwaukee, Tyler Dunne notes Schaap yesterday "accidentally used the wrong Aaron" when speaking on air about Hernandez, and instead used Packers QB Aaron Rodgers' name. He did "quickly correct himself on air." Rodgers tweeted, "Not funny ESPN." Schaap replied, "funny, no. But I did correct myself, right then, which of course the clip does not include." He went on to write, "Trust me, not my first slip of the tongue, even today" (JSONLINE.com, 6/26).
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