One of the interesting side-stories in the Manti Te’o story is figuring out who knew about the hoax, and when they knew about it. According to sources for Jason McIntyre of TheBigLead.com, ESPN knew about the hoax on January 6, 10 days before the story was reported by Deadspin.com.When McIntyre reached out to ESPN directly, they claim that they were first made aware of the story on January 10.
What makes the January 6 date so interesting is that it was the day before Te’o and Notre Dame played in the BCS Championship game. That game was aired on ESPN and McIntyre’s sources indicate that “some [at ESPN] wondered if it would be in their best interest to air anything” before the championship game.
Of course, that doesn’t explain why ESPN still sat on the story after the championship game. And according to McIntyre, ultimately ESPN chose not to report the story because they were unable to make the necessary verifications (how do you verify that a non-existent person didn’t really exist?).
Ultimately, there are two looming issues here: 1) This is further evidence that the business side of ESPN is too intertwined with the news reporting side of ESPN (was ESPN protecting the BCS title game and angling for the “first interview” after Te’o took the story to the press himself, something that would have been a ratings hit?); and 2) We see that the fine line between traditional journalism and new media is not so fine as Deadspin.com published a story that damns Te’o based on speculation from “a friend” that was “80 per cent sure [that Manti Te’o was] in on it,” something ESPN was clearly unwilling to do.
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