Making Sense of the Media
3:40 pm
Fri January 25, 2013

Why Deadspin Beat ESPN to the Manti Te'o Story

Manti Te'o speaks with Katie Couric.
Manti Te'o speaks with Katie Couric.
Credit ABC Notre Dame

Most of us have heard the story of Notre Dame Linebacker Manti Te'0 and his girlfriend that didn't exist. She was an internet hoax.

The real story of his imaginary girlfriend wasn't told by the big sports media organizations that had helped spread the myth to begin with.

No, the bloggers at a sports website called "Deadspin" broke the news.

That doesn't really surprise Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's Sense Making Project.

"Deadspin is known as a, sort of, in your face, I'm gonna stick my finger in the eye of the big guy sports website," she said.

"And they did it in an really unconventional way. They never actually talked to Manti Te'o," she said.

"ESPN had the story, we've since learned, and they were waiting to get an interview with Te'o. And, in the meantime, they got beat."

The Poynter Institute served as ESPN's ombudsman for 18 months and McBride was the lead writer for that project.

She says that during that time she learned that sports journalism is the only part of the journalism world that is exploding right now. There are a lot more outlets and jobs, but the journalism infrastructure has not kept up.

McBride says two many sports outlets pick up a story reported by one organization and just repeat it without ever checking the facts themselves.

McBride also says the Manti Te'o story, and the Penn State sex scandal story -- both broken by smaller outlets -- reveals another problem in big sports reporting groups like ESPN and others.

"I think that they are too dependent on telling the story that the fans want to hear rather than telling what the world needs to hear... It's subconscious. They buy into the same stories the fans buy into."