Journalism ethics is nothing more than a measure of the scurrilousness your brand will bear. That’s it. Ethics has nothing to do with the truth of things, only with the proper etiquette for obtaining it, so as to piss off the fewest number of people possible.
There was no Lennay Kekua.
Lennay Kekua did not meet Manti Te’o after the Stanford game in 2009. Lennay Kekua did not attend Stanford. Lennay Kekua never visited Manti Te’o in Hawaii. Lennay Kekua was not in a car accident. Lennay Kekua did not talk to Manti Te’o every night on the telephone. She was not diagnosed with cancer, did not spend time in the hospital, did not engage in a lengthy battle with leukemia. She never had a bone marrow transplant. She was not released from the hospital on Sept. 10, nor did Brian Te’o congratulate her for this over the telephone. She did not insist that Manti Te’o play in the Michigan State or Michigan games, and did not request he send white flowers to her funeral. Her favorite color was not white. Her brother, Koa, did not inform Manti Te’o that she was dead.
Koa did not exist. Her funeral did not take place in Carson, Calif., and her casket was not closed at 9 a.m. exactly. She was not laid to rest.
In a bizarre investigative report, Deadspin discovers that the dead girlfriend of Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o was a fabrication.
As (mis)reported by ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports, CBS, The New York Post, The Los Angeles Times and The South Bend Tribune among others, the Notre Dame football star carried a heavy heart throughout the 2012 football season when both his grandmother and Lennay Kekua, his girlfriend, died hours apart on the same September day.
Kekua, supposedly, due to complications from leukemia.
Turns out, Lennay Kekua is a fiction. Te’o, who says he met Kekua online, claims he is the victim of an Internet scam.
For the news organizations reporting on — and building up — the sad tale, let’s bring you back to newsroom 101 and the importance of fact checking: Just because one outlet reports it doesn’t make it true.
Read the piece though. A bizarre tale.
For more, ESPN does a follow-up.