Notre Dame Student Paper Apologizes, Examines ‘What Went Wrong’ with Manti Te’o Girlfriend Hoax Coverage

In a special front-page column published today, the editor-in-chief of The Observer apologized to readers at the University of Notre Dame for mistakes the paper made related to coverage of the Manti Te’o online love hoax.

As Allan Joseph writes, “We at The Observer were one of the many organizations taken in by the hoax, and we published stories mentioning [Lennay] Kekua’s death. . . . Since Wednesday, I’ve taken the time to review our coverage mentioning the Kekua story, and while the results are encouraging, we did make mistakes.”



All told, according to Joseph, the Observer mentioned Te’o’s faux girlfriend in six stories last semester.  She was never the focal point of a story, instead often appearing in passing as a rationale behind Te’o’s high motivation and extraordinary play.  For example, the lede to a mid-September piece: “After losing his grandmother and girlfriend within hours of each other last week, Irish linebacker Manti Te’o could have left Notre Dame and his teammates to be with his family in Hawaii.  Instead, he stayed in South Bend and led his team to a decisive victory at Michigan State on Saturday.”

Through his examination, Joseph concludes the staff’s reportorial mistakes mostly centered on two journalistic faults: inadequate fact-checking and false assumptions.

In his words, “We should have checked if Kekua in fact attended Stanford.  However, the story had been so widely reported in the months prior to that article that we mistakenly took her attendance at Stanford to be common knowledge.  We should have cited reports of Kekua’s death, rather than again citing it as common knowledge.  As we all know now, we got those facts wrong.  For that, I take responsibility and sincerely apologize.  We always strive to live up to the mission statement listed on the front page of every paper and bring the truth to our readers.”

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