The Rambles of Neil Monnery

Another pointless voice in the vast ocean that is the interweb

Did you hear the one about the girlfriend who died of cancer but actually didn’t exist?

with 2 comments

One story has dominated the American sports industry over the past 24 hours and it is one of the most bizarre stories that I have ever come across. Deadspin yesterday published the following story Manti Te’o’s Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Hoax. The story details how the girlfriend of an American Football player never existed and when he announced to the world that she had died of cancer it was not accurate because…she didn’t exist.

The thing that has stunned the journalism industry isn’t what happened but more how was the story ever allowed to happen? How come no-one picked up on the fact that she didn’t exist? Didn’t anyone do some background research that would have shown up the fact this was a hoax? As many experienced journalists have said today you take people at their word on issues like these but you do background research, you attempt to speak to the girls parents, her friends, you do something to find out other facets of the story. The fact is no-one did this and the story of Te’o and the death of his girlfriend was allowed to manifest itself is something of a black mark on the whole industry.

This girlfriend who apparently died had no obituary ever written about her. Her funeral was published at being held in two different places – one of these places as a town in California that didn’t even exist. Yet no-one picked up on it. On December 26 Te’O went to his university and told them that the story was a hoax perpetrated on him by sick individuals. The truth according to the player was that he had developed an online relationship and had never met this girl.

His version of events are believable but he knew on December 26th that the story was untrue and yet before the National Championship Game ten days ago he was asked on many occasions about his girlfriend and he still didn’t come clean. He still spoke of her – and her death by cancer – freely and with raw emotion. It just doesn’t add up.

Then a few days ago Deadspin got a tip that the story was a hoax and within a few days they were able to join the dots and release the story linked to earlier, which is in itself a fine piece of journalism. The viewpoint of many of the sports journalists are that whilst they didn’t do their jobs properly they are also under immense pressure not only to be right but more importantly to be first in this 24/7 news cycle world that we live in. Being first brings kudos and brings followers on twitter, likes on Facebook and might, views on the internet, eyeballs on the TV and even the odd extra sale of a newspaper. Being right might not be the be all and end all any more and when everyone is wrong it doesn’t seem to matter as much.

Personally I love the longer, thoughtful piece. I was talking to a friend of mine Tony a few weeks ago about the ESPN show 30 for 30 and how we both really appreciated the proper sports documentary. You can tell the time that had gone into the documentary series and I really enjoyed it. A few weeks ago ITV4 showed a documentary on Jose Mourinho and I found that well worth an hour of my time.

Longer, more thoughtful pieces still have a home in my heart but do they still have a place in sports journalism in this day and age? This story makes me think its place in sports journalism is on the very edge and its not looking in, its drifting even further away and that makes me sad.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

  • Share on Tumblr

Written by neilmonnery

January 17th, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Posted in American Sport,News

Tagged with ,

2 Responses to 'Did you hear the one about the girlfriend who died of cancer but actually didn’t exist?'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Did you hear the one about the girlfriend who died of cancer but actually didn’t exist?'.

  1. As you are in sports journalism, where you can’t get away with making up stories, you might not realise just how much ‘reporting’ particularly in provincial papers is just copy & paste jobs originating, not in investigative reporting but from press releases by companies or organisations.

    Andrew Currie

    18 Jan 13 at 2:07 pm

  2. I have been involved in other areas and I know how much is just copy&paste/rewrite Press Releases – certainly at local papers and even more so at local radio. I think Journalism needs to be separated into two very different types – and I’d love to see more long investigative pieces being written.

    neilmonnery

    21 Jan 13 at 4:21 pm

Leave a Reply