Fellow writer and PR Specialist, Michael Bivona, wrote this spot-on article about the Manti Te'o fiasco so I thought I'd share it with readers.
With Manti Te’o dominating headlines and talk shows it’s time to push the spotlight on the reporters who are responsible for these stories gaining legs.
Former Notre Dame linebacker, and runner-up in the Heisman voting, Te’o is part of a fascinating, Days of Our Lives-type story in which the girlfriend he claimed to be dating--who was battling injuries from a serious car accident before dying from leukemia--never existed. Some say Te’o was in on the hoax to gain publicity and some say he was the victim of a cruel joke. Either way, didn’t a single reporter from any of the publications profiting from writing about the grieving Te’o ever ask to interview the girlfriend before she passed or try to contact her family after she died? Until Deadspin broke the story, it looked like this drama would have never come to light. ESPN claims they were aware of the hoax before the Deadspin story but held it while debating whether they had enough information to run with it. That sounds awfully convenient to us.
As fascinating as the Te’o story is being made out to be, why isn’t the media being held accountable?
Marcel Pacatte, assistant professor at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, agrees.
“To me, this isn't a story about Te'o, it's a story about journalism -- or, really, its failure,” Pacatte told us.
When asked how this could have been prevented, Pacatte responded, “The answer is simple: report.”
So here are a few remedial tips for every reporter, including the one writing this piece.
Don’t Source Wikipedia
First and foremost, Wikipedia is not a source. Any reporter, writer, or curious person with any sort of brain should know that while Wikipedia might be a good starting point if you absolutely know nothing on a subject, you can’t trust a single thing on that site.
Reporters used to have to actually research information. They’d have to visit libraries, sources’ homes or offices, city hall, police stations, etc. Now they use Google instead. The problem is that with the immeasurable amount of information out there on every topic comes a lot of false reports. How can a reporter today tell which is legit and which is a lie? Well, visit a library, a source’s home or office, city hall, the police station, etc.
Just Because It’s Published Doesn’t Mean It’s True
Second, if another publication wrote it, that doesn’t mean it’s true. Sports Illustrated published a story which included Te’o grieving over the loss of his girlfriend, which came from an interview on ABC, which was followed up by stories on every network that covers college sports. Who do you blame for not getting the story correct? All of them. You can credit or source as many people as you want, but at the end of the day it was published on your site.
Use Your Phone Like A Phone
Third, pick up the damn phone. That cool little device you use to check Facebook and play Words with Friends also has the ability to call other people. It’s like texting but you actually speak to the other person, in real-time. This technology can save you a lot of time. You can now call sources, city hall, police stations, or girlfriends that might or might not exist, instead of visiting them.
We all have deadlines and are under pressure to perform at a high level, but taking the easy route can lead to some shabby journalism. If these simple steps were taken, we wouldn’t be listening and reading about the Te’o girlfriend hoax right now.
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