Te’o “Hoax” Shows Reporters Don’t Have Enough Time to Report?

Manti Te’o, on the bench. (Wikimedia Commons)

Journalists the country over scrambled Thursday to find answers to the growing questions about Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o’s fake girlfriend.  Pete Thamel combed through the work he’d done for a story on Te’o, saying “I sat down with Manti Te’o for a story that was due two hours after the interview concluded.”  Jim Romenesko published a letter from former Newsday editor/critic Diane Werts that blamed the lifespan of this “hoax” on the fact that “reporters are no longer given time to report.”  Many have decried the oversights in fact checking that allowed the story of the fake girlfriend’s death to live for so long.

Manti Te’o’s Imaginary Girlfriend a Cautionary Tale for Journalists

Back when football stars didn’t require so much publicity. (Flickr Creative Commons: OSU Special Collections & Archives)

Social media deception was the crux of America’s biggest story Wednesday, as online outlet Deadspin.com broke that Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o had either lied or been lied to about the death of his imaginary girlfriend.  Though ESPN claimed to have known about the story for more than a week, Deadspin first published news of the deception, causing media reporters to take a fresh look at the wisdom of trusting online sources.

South Bend Tribune writers came under question for stories they wrote about Te’o’s alleged girlfriend’s death, but over at The Verge they’re wondering what this revelation should teach us about social media skepticism.  Does this redefine how reporters use social media to engage sources and conduct interviews?

In J-school you sometimes hear the adage that you can never be sure exactly who it is responding to your emails and returning your calls, and social media certainly exists in a deeper layer of anonymity than those mediums.  Several student newspapers have recently outlawed email interviews.

This story will continue to tailspin, as many inconsistent details suggest Te’o may have known all along that the person he communicated with online (he says) was not a young woman who loved him until she died.