[Moderated by Matt Jones]
Manti Te’o had a bad day yesterday. You all know the story– Te’o's girlfriend, the self-professed “love of his life,” died earlier this year, six hours after the death of his grandmother. It broke Te’o's heart, but he persevered, and went on to have a Heisman-caliber season. Except not. Kekua didn’t die. She never existed. It still remains to be seem what Te’o's involvement in the old “dead fake internet girlfriend” scheme was, but one thing we do know for sure is that Lennay Kekua never existed.
The other thing we know for sure? Every reporter who perpetuated the myth of this story dropped the ball. Everyone assumed the story to be true, and no one checked to make sure that it was. That said, no one botched this worse than Pete Thamel. Thamel wrote the Sports Illustrated cover story on Te’o that introduced many to the dead girlfriend narrative, and as an SI writer with tremendous resources and a high-profile platform, he had the greatest responsibility (and means) to get this story right. But he didn’t. He bought the hoax like everyone else.
And thus, I bring you his best “investigative reporting” on the Manti Te’o story:
Te’o had dated Lennay Kekua, 22, for nearly a year. She’d been hospitalized in California since an April 28 car accident left her on the brink of death. Two months after the accident, as she began to recover from her injuries, doctors discovered that she had leukemia and sent her to a new hospital with another daunting health issue.
Yeah, no. All of that is untrue. Just an FYI, Pete– car accidents that leave people on the brink of death tend to have accompanying police reports. Google is your friend.
As Lennay struggled to survive, Te’o developed a nightly ritual in which he would go to sleep while on the phone with her. When he woke up in the morning his phone would show an eight-hour call, and he would hear Lennay breathing on the other end of the line. Her relatives told him that at her lowest points, as she fought to emerge from a coma, her breathing rate would increase at the sound of his voice.
Relatives are involved now, Pete. You know what most journalists would consider them? Sources. They’re called sources, Pete. Check them. Double check them. That’s Journalism 101. You’re welcome for the free lesson.
Te’o was devastated by the double dose of bad news, but he insisted on practicing that afternoon and addressed the team beforehand. “This is my family,” he recalls saying. “I love each and everyone one of you. My girlfriend always told me, ‘Send roses while they can still smell them, tell people you love them while they can still hear.’
He PRACTICED that day, Pete? No red flags went up? Playing in a game I can see. The old “Brett Favre Tribute Game” is a staple in sports. But practicing? No way. Players skip practices with a tight hammy. When you lose the love of your life, you’re taking the afternoon off. Period.
In the wake of the deaths, Te’o had 12 tackles as the Irish dominated Michigan State 20–3. One week later, on the day of Lennay’s funeral service, he picked off two Denard Robinson passes and forced two other interceptions as Notre Dame beat Michigan 13–6 to go 4–0.
Was that the day of Lennay’s funeral? No, it wasn’t, Pete. Because imaginary girlfriends can’t die. I’m sure tracking down the funeral home with old school journalistic due diligence was too much to ask– But was googling “lennay kekua funeral california”? Because really, that’s all you needed to do.
Lennay Kekua left a final gift for her boyfriend, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, on her iPad. Before she died from leukemia in September, Kekua wrote a handful of letters to Te’o for him to read as inspiration before football games. The letters became part of a ritual that Te’o clung to during a season of extremes—private pain and soaring success. Lennay’s brother, Kainoa, and sister, U’ilani, would read the letters to Manti and then e-mail them to him to savor. “It’s given me a sense of strength and perseverance,” Te’o says.
This is a great anecdote, Pete. Did you try to get a quote from one of the siblings? Of course not. Gathering sources, fact-checking, researching, who needs all that… amiright, PT? Want to know what the makes that last quote even more awesome though? It was from a second article on Te’o and Kekua that was published in December. Months after the initial story was written. Plenty of time to follow-up on any initial reporting. Pete Thamel: Investigative Journalist, everyone.
The great irony of all of this is that it was a new media site, Deadspin, that broke this story. They did so by investigating and fact checking. They confirmed with sources and peeled back the layers of a complex story. Basically, they did what Pete Thamel, and every other “investigative journalist” should have done. Thamel can fly to Turkey to expose Enes Kanter, and hound the secretaries working at the high schools of every one of John Calipari’s recruits for transcripts, but he apparently can’t google Manti Te’o's girlfriend to make sure that she did in fact die of leukemia. Deadspin did, and by doing so, they broke the story of the year.
And people wonder why print media is dying.
[powered by WordPress.]
32 queries. 0.476 seconds