I know the "he's no angel" angle is pretty much standard whenever an unarmed black men gets killed by police, though whether the press are trained to do that on their own or their "sources" in the NYPD just Fax it over to them I'm not sure, but I assume that dumpster diving through a man's life isn't actually the first impulse when an elderly Asian doctor gets bloodied and injured while being dragged off his seat in a plane because the airline decided it needed to send its employees for a ride instead.
Often the real story isn't the story, but the source of the story. This is perhaps murkier when, say, the FBI goes to war with the CIA, but it should be a no brainer if a major corporation is going after a man they just had assaulted. I don't know if United or their law enforcement goons sent over oppo research to trash their victim, but if they did then that, not whatever the guy did 10 years ago, was clearly the story. In any case, fuck those reporters who decided that digging up dirt on the victim was the right thing to do. Even if he had been a convicted serial killer it wouldn't have had anything to do with the current story. He didn't even "ask" to get thrust into the spotlight by daring to report the malfeasance, other people did it for him.