There are millions of questions this morning regarding the mystery involving Notre Dame's star linebacker Manti Te'o and his girlfriend. In September and October, Te'o told interviewers that his girlfriend and his grandmother had died within hours of each other. Te’o was then inspired him to honor them with sterling play on the field and ultimately led his team to a 20-3 routing of Michigan State.
Deadspin.com, acting on an anonymous e-mail it received last week, started poking around. Wednesday night the site released a report dismissing as a hoax the existence of Te'o's girlfriend, Lennay Kakua. This morning host of CNN's Reliable Sources Howard Kurtz and Daily Download Editor in Chief Lauren Ashburn join “Starting Point,” to discuss whether the media should have done more fact checking on Te’o’s supposed girlfriend.
"As this became a bigger story and as CBS was doing it and then 'Sports Illustrated' and ESPN and the others, you know you look back...it would have taken one phone call to discover that there was never any death notice," Kurtz says. "There was never any record of her birth...she didn’t go to Stanford.”
Kurts says the university’s role is "pathetic." "Notre Dame officials said they found out December 26th it was a hoax [and] allowed other news organizations to go forward without saying a word and to perpetuate this myth, this piece of fiction as if it was a real story," he says.
Ashburn points out that “the role of social media reporting in the Deadspin article is fascinating.”
"All of the pieces started to come together and...as reporters learn more about the functions of social media the opportunity for doing real reporting on via Facebook accounts and Twitter accounts exists,” she says.
Ashburn admits that the story of Te’o and his girlfriend was a “puff piece” and not “Enron, it still journalism. You still have to get the facts right.”