Manti Te’o

Mirror Awards finalists announced

Syracuse University

The 2014 Mirror Awards, which honor media industry reporting, announced their finalists Tuesday. Winners will be announced June 4.

Poynter’s Kristen Hare is a finalist in the Best Single Article – Digital Media category, for her story last November about how the Toronto Star reported on Rob Ford. The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple is a finalist in that category, too, for his piece the same month about Politico’s Mike Allen.

Mimi Chakarova’s story in Vice of posing as a prostitute in a Turkish brothel is nominated in the Best Single Story – Radio, Television, Cable or Online Broadcast Media category. Carrie Ching, who produced that story, told Poynter she’d begun a series of journalist “confessions” because she’d “heard so many stories from colleagues, personal stories that just weren’t being told.”

Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey’s story in Deadspin of Manti Te’o’s fictional girlfriend is among the finalists for the John M. Higgins Award for Best In-Depth/Enterprise Reporting. Burke told Mallary Tenore last January the fact that other journalists didn’t look beyond the surface of Teo’s supposedly inspirational story was “Perhaps a reflection on the diminished role investigative journalism plays” now. Read more

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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 Read more

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Face of Manti Te’o hoax announces plans to be less visible

The Los Angeles Times | Daily Download
Diane O’Meara has closed her social media accounts, she writes in the Los Angeles Times. A hoaxter told former Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o that O’Meara’s face was Lennay Kekua, a woman he believed to be a girlfriend he never met. O’Meara realizes getting off the grid is “not a long-term solution”:

Eventually, I’ll go back to using social media. But I’ll take an even more cautious approach. I’ll have a new definition of who I agree to “friend,” and it will be much closer to the old definition of friendship. My friends will be those I actually know and trust. If someone sends me a “friend” request, I will be as discerning as I am in choosing who I include in my off-line life.

Read more

Katie Couric on Te’o interview: ‘I think he was really telling the truth’

CBS New York | BuzzFeed
What am I going to do, strap a lie detector on this guy?” Katie Couric said to WFAN hosts Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton Friday, while recapping her exclusive interview with former Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o.

“I mean, I think he was really telling the truth about most of the things we discussed,” she said.

I think that there was a lot of embarrassment and shame. I think he knows that he behaved in a way that raises a lot of questions. But I really don’t think he concocted this as a way to enhance his profile or make him look like a sympathetic, almost mythic character.

Read more

In Te’o interview, Couric shows value of follow-up questions

“Good Morning America” | Yahoo | Poynter | Deadspin
Did Manti Te’o make a good damage-control decision when he decided to give his first big post-non-dead-girlfriend interview to Katie Couric? Far from it.

Christina Ng writes that Couric (who shares the same spokeperson as Te’o) found parts of Te’o’s story a little hard to swallow. Read more


Sports Illustrated beats NYT on story of how Deadspin beat ESPN on Te’o story

The New York Times | Sports Illustrated
The New York Times’ account of how ESPN frittered away a tip about Manti Te’o’s imaginary girlfriend has everything you’d want from a story-behind-the-story. It sports a marvelous headline (“As ESPN Debated, Manti Te’o Story Slipped Away”), and is a fascinating account of how Te’o’s reps muscled ESPN after the story broke.

And, in a bizarre echo of the story it tells, it arrives after Sports Illustrated’s account of the same events.

Both news organizations speak with ESPN News Chief Vince Doria, who tells the Times “We were very close,” and tells SI “We felt we were close to reporting it.” Richard Sandomir and James Andrew Miller report ESPN’s tip came from Te’o’s agent Tom Condon. Doria told Deitsch that ESPN’s “interest in the story was Te’o, and he has now told his story.” Three unnamed ESPN executives told the Times “they should have published on Jan. 16.” Read more


Did Deadspin beat ESPN to the Te’o story because it didn’t care about preserving ‘access’?

Sports Illustrated | Journo2Go
It was a story of two tips.

The first, as Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch reports, came to ESPN late on Jan. 10. The second came to Deadspin on Jan. 11. Both were similar: Something seems fishy about this Manti Te’o girlfriend story, you should check it out.

What happened after? Read more

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In a photo provided by ESPN, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o pauses during an interview with ESPN on Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, in Bradenton, Fla. ESPN says Te'o maintains he was never involved in creating the dead girlfriend hoax. He said in the off-camera interview: "When they hear the facts they'll know. They'll know there is no way I could be a part of this." (AP Photo/ESPN Images, Ryan Jones) MANDATORY CREDIT

5 reporting tips from the college student who helped break Deadspin’s Manti Te’o story

An anonymous email forwarded to the Deadspin staff more than a week ago claimed the deceased girlfriend of Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o never actually existed.

Deadspin editorial fellow Jack Dickey was immediately intrigued. During an online chat, Dickey told other staffers, “This Te’o tip is fascinating. Anybody got dibs?”

“My instinct was really just to go for it,” he said in an interview Friday night. “Given how many tips we get that don’t pan out at all, I knew, of course, there was a chance this one would be a red herring. But I figured it was something to flag just in case, because it was such a crazy thing to even imagine — and because if it was true, it would be huge.”

The subsequent report — a Deadspin team effort featuring Dickey and video/assignment editor Timothy Burke in the byline and editor-in-chief Tommy Craggs and others on the editing and steering committee — has been nothing short of “a national sensation.” On its homepage Friday, labeled it “one of the most bizarre sports stories of our age.”

Along with enormous Web traffic, the Deadspin scoop has led to tons of questions: How did the hoax last for so long? What did Te’o know, and when did he know it? How were so many top journalists caught so flat-footed? And how did a site branded as an outsider with limited resources — at least compared to many national sports media — piece together most of the complicated tale so quickly?

As Deadspin managing editor Tom Scocca tweeted Thursday, “Our guys — and let me be clear ‘our guys’ include a COLLEGE UNDERGRADUATE — nailed it down in five days.”

Dickey, 22, is the “COLLEGE UNDERGRADUATE” in that tweet. The senior English major at Columbia University worked nonstop on the story while finishing up his winter break at home in Connecticut.

In a phone interview Friday, Dickey shared his thoughts on how Deadspin staff broke open such a big, bizarre story — one seemingly tailor-made for an online journalism investigation.

Be open and accessible to tips — even the anonymous, crazy kind.

According to Dickey, the prominent email has been a vital trigger for many of the site’s bigger scoops and smaller, everyday stories.

“If you’re a journalist, you should have a way for people to reach you, an easy way,” he said. “At Deadspin, we tell people to tip us. We put the tips email all over the place because we want to get tips. Sometimes you’re going to get misled, but most of the time people have good reasons for wanting to get in touch with you.”

The key with a tips forum — whether it’s an online chat room or an email or voicemail inbox — is to have it constantly monitored by key staff.

“I think that’s what surprises people about the Deadspin tips line,” said Dickey. “They assume it’s some intern whose job it is to check tips and forward the most interesting ones. But no, everyone on Deadspin gets all the tips. They are forwarded to all of our own personal emails. So we all read tips at the same time, depending on how frequently we check our email … It’s the same at all the other Gawker sites. We take tips very seriously.”

Practice “Internet journalism,” especially on an Internet story.

In an email interview published Thursday, Timothy Burke, the story’s other bylined contributor, told Poynter’s Mallary Tenore that competing news media might have missed the Te’o hoax story because they “didn’t have the tools Dickey and I did.”

I asked Dickey what tools Burke was talking about. He said they were a mix of digital and mental. In his words, “Well, first, Burke is a mad scientist. He’s a genius and has all sorts of technological skills no one else has. For this, he was doing a lot of digging, finding deleted tweets, and then tying people’s identities on Twitter to real names and finding photos of the so-called Lennay Kekua [Te’o’s alleged girlfriend] and putting a real name to that. Some of that I can do, some of it I can’t. He’s obviously far more skilled at it than I am and than anyone else on Deadspin is.”

In a photo provided by ESPN, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o pauses during an interview with the sports network on Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, in Bradenton, Fla. ESPN says Te’o maintains he was never involved in creating the dead girlfriend hoax. He said in the off-camera interview: “When they hear the facts they’ll know. They’ll know there is no way I could be a part of this.” (AP Photo/ESPN Images, Ryan Jones)

But Dickey said it was not just search skills, but online instincts that helped the pair dive in so successfully, so fast.

“If you’re not used to doing Internet journalism, you would not be able to crack this story,” he said. “Your first instinct might not be to do really deep Googling on people. It might be, ‘OK, let me find a phone number and let me search LexisNexis,’ which we did for everyone involved in the story. But we also did as much social media digging as we could. Our story needed both those things. It needed the older media component of Nexis, the press clippings, and all of that. But it also needed the new media component of searching social networking profiles. Even though there were a lot of red herrings and dead ends in those profiles, they still gave us the keys to unlock the story.”

Even on a successful story, there will be lots of failures.

“This is sort of the funny part,” Dickey said. “For all the great things people are saying about our reporting, I personally was quite unsuccessful in trying to get anyone close to [the alleged hoax perpetrator Ronaiah Tuiasosopo] to talk. I called a lot of people and kept getting no answer or full voicemail inboxes. I think the only person I got to talk to me on the phone was his football coach for two years in high school. Although the overall reporting on the story was a success, my reporting had a lot of failure in it.”

On a larger level, as he shared about the ultimate published report, “We were trying to round out the story even more than the story we had on the website. We tried to get the Te’o family [to talk]. We tried to get anyone close to Ronaiah. We tried to get people close to the first person Ronaiah had scammed. We were mostly unsuccessful with that … It goes to show that stories like this one — even big successes for Deadspin — still do have a lot of reporters’ disappointments in the process.”

The details matter, especially when they don’t add up.

To Dickey, one of the most surprising aspects of the hoax narrative was the willingness of other journalists such as Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel to simply look past or leave out details that did not add up or that they could not track down.

As he said about Thamel’s recent accounting of his ultimately mistaken reports, “There were just so many things that didn’t check out. Rather than say ‘Wait a second, there are four or five things that don’t check out here, that really calls the whole story into question,’ he said ‘Well, these four or five details don’t check out, let’s just lose those four or five details from the story.’ … You would hope no journalist would ever make a mistake like that again, although I’m sure they will.”

Being an outsider is OK, even essential at times, to break big news.

“Every so often the mainstream media will totally goof on a story like this, and we’ll get it, and they won’t and that’s because we are outsiders,” said Dickey.

“There are other times where the dominant narrative is just the wrong one and we are in the position to hold people accountable. That’s the Deadspin motto, ‘Sports News Without Access, Favor, or Discretion,’ which is not true by the way. We sometimes have access.  We have plenty of favors. And sometimes we have discretion. But the general gist of that — trying to do things that hold people accountable without being beholden to anybody else — I think that’s still part of our mission.”

On an unrelated note, I asked Dickey toward the end of our talk whether being on winter break was the key to his efforts, giving him time to really dig in, free of distractions. His answer: “For a story like this, I would have cut class.”

Correction: Jack Dickey is 22 years old, not 20 as this article originally stated. Read more


Why didn’t the media find out about Manti Te’o hoax sooner?

Of all the questions arising from Deadspin’s Manti Te’o story, maybe the biggest is: Why didn’t other journalists uncover the hoax sooner? The story broke Wednesday night, and news geeks are still trying to put the pieces back together.

• What did Manti Te’o know, and when did he know it? Both he and Notre Dame said he learned his dead girlfriend Lennay Kekua wasn’t dead, because she never existed, on Dec. 6. And yet he referred to her on Dec. 8 and 9, Associated Press reporter Tom Coyne writes:

Te’o was in New York for the Heisman presentation on Dec. 8 and, during an interview before the ceremony that ran on the, the website for a South Bend TV station, Te’o said: “I mean, I don’t like cancer at all. I lost both my grandparents and my girlfriend to cancer. So I’ve really tried to go to children’s hospitals and see, you know, children.”

It happened again in a Bill Dwyre column that ran in the Los Angeles Times on Dec. 10. Dwyre wrote: “He said girlfriend Lennay Kekau ‘made me promise, when it happened, that I would stay and play,’ Te’o said Sunday night.” Read more

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Deadspin’s editor-in-chief explains editing, reporting behind Manti Te’o story

Deadspin Editor-in-Chief Tommy Craggs says Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey were faced with a tough question when reporting their now famous Manti Te’o story: “What lengths do we go to to try and prove a negative?”

Tommy Craggs

When asked about his reaction to The Boston Globe calling Deadspin “a website that has broken some high-profile stories but not an outlet regarded for journalistic standards,” Craggs says: “Whatever. Why should I care what a craven, slipshod outfit like the Boston Globe thinks of my ‘journalistic standards’?”

In an email Q&A, Craggs elaborates on Burke’s explanation of how Deadspin got the story that all other journalists missed.

Mallary Tenore: Who edited the story?

Tommy Craggs: Tom Scocca and I edited. We have a sort of wrestling-tag-team method of editing these longer features: We’ll put the story in a Google Doc and I’ll suplex a couple paragraphs and then Scocca will leap off the turnbuckle and piledrive a section or two, and so on.  Read more


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