Cecelia Roeder, in a Jan. 28 letter (“News organizations reported Te’o hoax without verifying facts”), insists that the media botched the Manti Te’o story by failing to dig deep enough. I disagree.
Until the interview of Te’o and his parents by Katie Couric, most reporting was pretty straightforward. Basically, reporters wrote about what they knew while complaining that big questions which badly needed answering weren’t being answered. Most criticism of the media was from those who didn’t want the story covered at all. But then, after the Couric interview, many local news outlets chose to paint Te’o as a naive and gullible victim, but a victim only. When Te’o told Couric that he had not been as forthcoming as he should have been but that he didn’t lie and even pushed back by asking what they would’ve done, that’s where the story died.
Te’o was probably victimized by a hoaxer. But it is also true that the amazing narrative which occupied such a huge place in 2012 ND football, that this star and Heisman Trophy contender was somehow managing to excel and inspire his team by bravely overcoming the personal tragedy of losing the woman he’d been dating for a year along with his grandmother, was based on a lie. Te’o’s story of having had a “relationship” with Lennay Kekua, of “dating” her, was false. Had he been truthful, had he only told people of hearing that his virtual girlfriend had died, this self-serving tale would never have plucked at anybody’s heartstrings. There would not have been a hoax worth writing about.
It is the papering over by most local news organizations of this part of the story that Ms. Roeder, who describes herself as a budding journalist, ought to be complaining about.