ESPN is trying to claim some kind of journalistic integrity, while at the same time they were promoting the highly rated National Championship game between Notre Dame and Alabama. No conflict there, right?
Considering it took Deadspin's two writers less than 24 hours to nail down the hoax (and you can imagine how little time it should have taken ESPN with its massive resources) there was no reason to wait. And, as Deadspin editor Tommy Craggs put it, "When they talk about standards, they may be talking about waiting for some kind of official response from Notre Dame or Manti, which is just idiotic. This is a story about a social media hoax. As soon as the principals know we’re working on it, the story starts to change. They start ripping things down.”
At BadJocks, we can attest to that. When we first started posting college sports hazing pictures that were freely available to the public on photo sharing sites, we tried following the usual route of getting comments from the school or team before posting and quickly found out that the photos would quickly disappear. It wasn't until the great Northwestern Women s Soccer Team Hazing story of 2006 that we shot first and asked questions later. It was the only way to get the story out there and we were criticized at the time for it, but it started changing the rules at how incidents like this were reported.
For everyone, that is, but ESPN.
In the end, ESPN must really be kicking themselves as not only did they lose out on the store, they also had to credit Deadspin.com, one of their harshest critics, for the story that they themselves could have broke.
It also tells you why the story receded so quickly from the network's headlines after the Jeremy Schaap interview. For them, it was over well before that and continuing to report on it (or even to verify Te'o's claims) was just adding salt to the wound.
On Jan. 16, a fierce debate raged inside ESPN. Reporters for the network had been working for almost a week trying to nail down an extraordinary story: Manti Te’o’s girlfriend — the one whose death from leukemia had haunted and inspired him during a triumphant year on the field for Notre Dame — might be a hoax. Enlarge This Image Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images ESPN decided to hold its story about the hoax involving Manti Te'o in hopes of getting an interview with him on camera. Related Analysis: Te’o Answers Questions but Doesn’t Settle Riddle (January 21, 2013) Katie Couric to Interview Manti Te'o (January 20, 2013) Te’o Maintains Innocence in Hoax (January 19, 2013) Interviews, insight and analysis from The Times on the competition and culture of college football. Go to The Quad Blog Division I-A This Week's Games A.P. and Coaches' Polls Scores: Top 25 | All Div. I-A Conference Standings All Div. I-A Teams Division I-AA Scores | Teams | Polls Some inside the network argued that its reporters — who had initially been put onto the story by Tom Condon, Te’o’s agent — had enough material to justify publishing an article. Others were less sure and pushed to get an interview with Te’o, something that might happen as soon as the next day. For them, it was a question of journalistic standards. They did not want to be wrong. “We were very close,” said Vince Doria, ESPN’s chief for news. “We wanted to be very careful.” ESPN held the story, and then lost it.As ESPN Debated, Te’o Story Slipped Away - NYTimes.com