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Manti Teo and the MSSM (Mainstream Sports Media)

2013 January 17
by Phil Miller

No doubt you’ve ran across the bizarre saga of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Teo and his fictional girlfriend.  If not, see here.

The fact that Deadspin broke this story and not one of the legacy sports media, like ESPN or Sports Illustrated, is also a bit bizarre to me.  With their legions of staff, why did it take so long for the story to come out and why at Deadspin?  No offense to the folks at Deadspin, but I expect more out of the major sports media.

The political analogy I thought of was the John Edwards story which the MSM declined to investigate and which was finally broken by The National Enquirer.  In that case the reason why the MSM did not poke around in Mr. Edward’s business was political, but what explains the inaction of the MSSM in the Teo saga?

9 Responses
  1. Brian permalink
    January 17, 2013

    Also political. ESPN can’t afford to make ND angry, they unilaterally control too much of the politics of NCAA football – especially when it comes to TV broadcast rights discussions.

  2. January 17, 2013

    It’s the Notre Dame, Queen of College Football factor. See my post ND’s AD Swarbrick Duped the Press and the Publc for Three Weeks http://wp.me/p15xE1-pu

  3. dneaster3 permalink
    January 17, 2013

    On his ESPN Radio show this morning, Colin Cowherd relayed a anecdote of an ESPN executive who knew of this story on Monday prior to it breaking, but said that they were sitting on it until all the details could be verified. This exec claimed, according to Cowherd, that the story was 80% ready.

    No matter how you slice it, this is a weird one.

  4. Jonathan permalink
    January 17, 2013

    For an even better example, you may want to Google who broke the Monica Lewinsky story.

  5. Nick Evans permalink
    January 18, 2013

    Is there really ever an incentive for the “MSSM” to investigate untoward stories about sports stars? If you dig too deeply, ask questions too sceptically or generally rock the boat, surely you run the risk of losing access to the stories (and the proximity to the sporting events). Mainstream sports reporters rarely seem to want to dig too deeply.

    You don’t need to look much further than Lance Armstrong for evidence of this on a much larger scale. The number of reporters who voiced their doubts, who dug deeply, and who asked tricky questions is tiny compared with those who were happy just to go along for the ride.

    Sports reporters are not generally investigative journalists.

  6. Mike Goetz permalink
    January 18, 2013

    Not only that, but the mainstream sports media was also indited in the fabrication. They all relayed the story of Te’o’s fake girlfriend’s death; some of the mainstream media even posted direct quotes from her prior to her ‘death’. A big part of this story, in my opinion, was how so many people and organizations could be duped — it reveals lazy journalism that no one bothered to check some of the simple facts.

    To report the fabrication also strongly reveals your own organization’s failings.

  7. January 19, 2013

    We do love our myths, don’t we?

  8. Tom permalink
    January 22, 2013

    Why would ESPN be any different than CNBC or Rolling Stone (when it comes to music, not the work Matt Taibbi does) or the evening network news and Sunday morning talk shows? CNBC’s job is to pump up the markets and make certain it has access to CEOs; Rolling Stone’s job (when it comes to music) is to pump up the musicians and make certain it has access to them for profiles and cover stories; and the evening network news and Sunday morning talk shows job is to pump up whatever the Very Serious People of Washington want for an agenda and make sure they have access to the VSPs.

    ESPN’s job is to pump up the sports business, and have access to the athletes and coaches to make sure it gets as many viewers for its game broadcasts as possible. That’s what brings the money in, not investigative reporting. ESPN is in the sports entertainment business, not the news business. Their anchors and sideline “reporters” seem more interested in hanging out with athletes — and sometimes marrying them; Samantha Steele, one of the sideline “reporters” just married Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder, sort of following, I guess, Andrea Mitchell’s footsteps when she married Alan Greenspan — than in covering them critically. Why would ESPN have any interest economically or socially in checking Teo’s story out before airing the original interview? It was just too good of a story to use to promote the Notre Dame games.

    Deadspin is the logical place to break the Teo hoax because it doesn’t have that kind of access right now and doesn’t care. This story — which really has no upside for ESPN given its business model — is perfect for Deadspin because it really can’t harm them.

    General rule: Mainstream media is in the entertainment business, not the news business. Don’t expect much when you’re being entertained.

  9. January 24, 2013

    It’s the media, Jake. See No Dame Good at comonow.blogspot.com.

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