I don’t know whether or not Manti Te’o was the victim or the creator of that elaborate hoax about his dead girlfriend. Most likely, time will tell.
What should really be of concern to us is the state of the media that helped to push this story.
There was a time, many years ago, when journalism was driven by facts. When I was taking journalism classes in college we were told stories about newspaper editors that walked around newsrooms repeating, “Facts! Facts! Facts!” Now it seems as though editors are walking around chanting, “Story! Story! Story!”
The Te’o hoax should be expected in a world where the story is more important than the facts. Modern sports journalism loves two things. One, they love their teams (see Notre Dame, Yankees, Lakers, Cowboys) and two, they love a good story. When the two come together it’s journalistic gold. But what about the facts? Never mind the facts. Didn’t the Bible say something about never letting the facts get in the way of a good story? Sure it did. I guess. Why not?
Of course this runs deeper than just sports journalism. The mainstream media, for the most part, is intoxicated by the same drug as sports media. They love their teams and they love a good story. This explains why you never hear any tough questions, or even very many follow-up questions for that matter, at the president’s press conferences. It also explains why many media outlets function more like public relations firms.
Save the facts for later.
What this means for us is that we have to be our own media. It’s true in sports and it’s even more true in politics. You have to do the research yourself before buying in to the narrative that you’re told by the talking heads on the evening news. In a world of unfounded conspiracy theories and out and out lies, this requires a lot of diligence.
But if we keep at it, we might just find the truth.
And that can make for a pretty good story.