I mean seriously, what?!?!?!?!? This isn't 1913, it's 2013. How exactly does every major sports media organization in the United States re-package a story that turns out to be wholly false? Budgets are stretched, but do major magazines not even fact-check their cover stories? Were all the top sportswriters in the country so enamored with this tale of woe that they didn't think to, you know, do their jobs? Mr. Te'o will get his soon enough—at best, he exploited a situation he didn't really understand to enhance his fame and prestige, and at worst he perpetrated a fraud on the entire country. But this story about the (now proved fictitious) Lennay Kekua has been in the news cycle for months. SI may be the worst offender, because running a heartwarming cover article based in part on a lie is the nightmare bizarro equivalent of Sidd Finch, only this was real. But it's appallingly apparent that every member of the sports media who wrote about this basically copied and pasted from previous articles.
Did they not feel compelled to check out this so-called girlfriend because the story had become "commonly accepted knowledge" to the media? Probably. Is that a scary turn of events for the Fourth Estate? Oh yes. Will this affect Te'o's draft prospects? He might slide a few spots, but he can play the GAME OF FOOTBALL, so he'll still be taken in the first 15 picks come April unless Deadspin or somebody else can prove he knew it was hoax the whole time.
I honestly don't know what else to say. Hampton, help me out. What's your reaction?
Well, Jake. My first reaction was dumbfounded silence. That was followed by long bouts of sputtering outrage, mixed with slack-jawed, shoulder-shrugging in disbelief. I'm still in that phase, in fact.
Incredible, isn't it? Not one of the highly-paid, well-respected journalists at SI or ESPN even bothered to check the most basic facts of their stories. Charlie Rose and CBS, with all that staff, with all that preaching about "original reporting," yet nobody at the whole network even so much as bothered to pick up a phone to find out if the girl actually existed.
That is simply pathetic. Incredibly lazy. Embarrassing. Every journalist involved with telling Te'o's tale should be ashamed. At the moment, guys, that's about the most sophisticated analysis as I can muster.
Patrick, maybe you can put this mess into some broader social context. Tell me this is somehow an indictment of our cut-and-paste society. Take us into Gladwell-land, and explain how everybody gets fooled in a Blink sometimes. Help me see the big picture. Because right now all I can see is a bunch of people who stink at their jobs.
As a sometimes-member of the sports world's Fourth Estate that both you and Jake are decrying—well, except for the "highly paid" and "well-respected" parts—all I can add is ... oy.