Sunday, January 20

The Story Behind the Story of Manti Te'o

Are we all really tired of the story of the non-girlfriend of Manti Te'o? Weary of speculating what he knew and didn't know? If he was involved in the hoax? Or if he's just sufficiently gullible to fall in love with a virtual personality?

What he knew and when he knew it is confusing. Why friends and family embellished the relationship that wasn't is also puzzling. But what is even more confusing is how easily the media fell for this story.

NPR's David Folkenflik examined this in his story, noting the media let its guard down. I'll say.

I don't follow Notre Dame, though I was aware of the football phenom, Manti Te'o. It was hard to follow college football and not know the name. I can't tell if Te'o talked about his girlfriend before she died; I get the impression he did not.

So I don't understand several things:
  • in an era when the media is notoriously inquisitive about every detail in the life of every pseudo- or about-to-be celebrity, why did no one do any kind of investigating about Te'o's private life?
  • as soon as the story of the girlfriend broke, why didn't anyone contact Stanford University or visit the campus for background information? The hoax would have been uncovered quickly then.
  • Why in the world would any member of the media rely only on other members of the media as sources? Isn't that Journalism 101?
Folkenflik concludes with this
Here's an instance of at least two experienced reporters who tiptoed to the edge of the truth and didn't quite believe where their reporting took them. The story was too important to let the absence of verifying facts get in the way. Just like fans in the stands, the reporters and their peers wanted the story to be true.
Well, okay, but that's a pretty shoddy excuse for not doing their jobs. And what's even more interesting to me is how the media keeps trying to report on this story while trying not to look incompetent about the way they report on celebrities and celebrity-like people.

It's bad enough there was a hoax. It's possible that Te'o fell in love with a non-existent person, which underscores the potential dangers of online "relationships" so there is a lesson here. It's really bad that the media got a selective conscious and, thereby, was duped. In my opinion, this story just gives us another reason not to trust the media's ability to report anything with any degree of honesty, integrity, objectivity, or truth.