AP issues correction for stories citing Manti Te’o's fake girlfriend

The Associated Press issued a correction late last week to address reporting that cited Manti Te’o's fake girlfriend as real. As reported in Mike Allen’s Playbook at Politico, here’s the correction:

In a Sept. 15, 2012, story about Notre Dame’s college football victory over Michigan State that highlighted linebacker Manti Te’o's performance, The Associated Press erroneously reported that he played in the game a few days after the death of his girlfriend, who had a long battle with leukemia. Other AP stories through Jan. 3, 2013, also contained references to the girlfriend’s death, including some directly quoting Te’o and his father, Brian Te’o, about how he played through personal grief. On Jan. 16, Notre Dame officials and Manti Te’o said there was never a girlfriend or a death, and that Te’o was victimized in a hoax. Others have since come forward to say Te’o was duped in a series of phone calls and online messages purporting to be from a girl he never met in person.

The correction also carried a note from AP instructing “Editors who used stories from Sept. 15 to Jan. 3 that referenced the death of Manti Te’o's girlfriend … to use the following story.”

Paul Colford, AP’s director of media relations, said that even though the story of Te’o’s fake girlfriend is now widely known, AP felt it necessary to issue a correction.

“Of course, almost everyone already knew the T’eo story was false, but we feel an obligation to carry formal correctives in any case,” he said in an email. “To quote Tom Kent, AP’s standards editor: ‘What ‘everyone knows’ now may not apply years from now when people are looking up T’eo in another context.’ ”

I asked if there was a specific development in the story that triggered the correction. For example, the Deadspin piece debunking the girlfriend is now almost a month old.

“We waited for the whole story to air out — T’eo’s news conference, the hoaxster’s appearance on Dr. Phil’s TV show and our own reporting — and then we wanted to make sure the corrective wasn’t lost in the Super Bowl rush,” Colford said. “It was for the record. We weren’t breaking news with the corrective.”

So is the correction being picked up new outlets?

A quick search in Google News shows that two outlets have run it (and Yahoo! News also published it):

Google News is by no means a definitive search for this, but half of the results are reports about the correction.

Colford told me AP has no way or tracking the use of a correction, so it’s not possible to know how widely it’s been used.

“We have no way to be certain who used the corrective; we sent it, per our usual practice, to the same points and news outlets that received the original story,” he said. “This is our standard way of sending correctives. It also moved online for end-readers to see.”

Related: 5 reporting tips from the college student who helped break Deadspin’s Manti Te’o story | Incorrect information travels farther, faster than corrections

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