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In Sports Commentary

The rapid spread to the mainstream media of the rumor that Aaron Rodgers (right) is gay is a reminder that we live in "a Gawker/Buzz Feed world." (PHOTO: Jim Biever/Green Bay Packers)

"Rodgers is gay" rumor is not media's finest hour

Here's what's wrong with America.

Not the only thing. But I can flat out guarantee you that this is one thing that is seriously a problem in the world in which we live.

The whole Aaron Rodgers might be gay story.

Here's how bad it got.

Major media outlets, including such distinguished places as WTMJ-TV, CBS, USA Today and MSNBC, all reported that on his radio show, Rodgers denied the rumors suggesting that he might be gay.

I did some research how this story about Aaron Rodgers got started. And, as is becoming a tried and true practice, it started with a blog.

Jim Romenesko is a former reporter in Milwaukee and now a very respected observer and chronicler of the news media. I talked with him about this whole thing.

"This is the way rumors spread in the age of social media: a journalist with some credibility – in this case, he works for the Wall Street Journal – puts a post about Aaron Rodgers on his personal blog suggesting that the QB is closeted," Romenesko said.

"That journalist tweets and Facebooks his rumor and it quickly circulates. Sports blogs run with it, and then mainstream media – including newspaper sports reporters – feel the need to get a comment. Thus it moves from a blogger-hosted site to major metro dailies and talk-radio/TV in less than 24 hours."

Here's one thing to remember. And this is very important.

Before Rodgers decided to respond to the rumors, there were probably 20 people who were in on this whole thing. The readership for that kind of rumor blog is somewhat less than the average population at a George Webb restaurant.

The fact is that once the mainstream media began reporting his denial, the number of people who became aware of the rumor, grew to gargantuan proportions. There is a role that the mainstream media plays in spreading, not only the denial, but the rumor itself.

I talked with Steve Wexler, Executive Vice President of Television and Radio Operations for Journal Broadcast Group.

"The only time that would get any time on our air is if the subject of the rumor went public and denied it," he said. "What we reported was his denial."

I understand what Wexler said, and I probably agree with him in theory.

But I'm agreeing with my teeth gritted and my fists clenched.

Sometime somebody has to stand up and say, "I'm not going to do anything that will spread the original rumor." All broadcast media spends a lot of time and money trying to convince viewers and listeners that they are sources that can be trusted.

If so, they could prove it by saying "not in my house."

Rodgers obviously knew that people were going to pick up on his denial. And he was right. Once he said it, it became the tale du jour.

But here's where I disagree with Wexler.

It's not enough that something happened to justify putting it on your air. At some point you have to weigh the positives versus the negatives. Reporting Rodgers' denial may have been safe, but nobody needed to do it. Hardly anybody was talking about Rodgers being gay, but once all those mainline media folks got hold of the story, everybody spent a few days talking about it.

Romenesko said, "No doubt some 'old school journalists' will want to resist the urge to run with social media gossip, but I suspect the decision-makers at most shops will say, 'It's on Twitter and Facebook, so we can't ignore it.' It's a Gawker/BuzzFeed world we're living in, like it or not."

Maybe so, but as he said, I don't have to like it.


Photodavie | Jan. 13, 2014 at 8:45 a.m. (report)

I agree Blogs are to blame. With that, this will be your last blog right Dave? Please?

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Saltydog | Jan. 12, 2014 at 4:01 a.m. (report)

Hate to say it but that rumor has been floating around town for a couple years now.

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