Student Who Helped Deadspin Break Te’o Hoax Story Remembers Thinking ‘Wow, This is Absolutely Nuts’

Last week, Deadspin broke the big, bizarre news about the Manti Te’o online love hoax– and they did it quickly.  As Deadspin managing editor Tom Scocca tweeted, “Our guys– and let me be clear ‘our guys’ include a COLLEGE UNDERGRADUATE– nailed it down in five days.”

Jack Dickey, 22, is the “COLLEGE UNDERGRADUATE” in that tweet. The senior English major at Columbia University worked nonstop on the story while finishing up his winter break at home in Connecticut.

As anyone with a computer, a fantasy football league, an online dating profile, or a catfish knows by now, the final report— a Deadspin team effort featuring Dickey and video/assignment editor Timothy Burke in the byline and editor-in-chief Tommy Craggs and others on the editing and steering committee– has been nothing short of “a national sensation.

In a post this week for Poynter, I shared some reporting tips Dickey was kind enough to pass along during a phone interview.  Check out the Poynter piece by clicking here or on the screenshot below.

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Here are two DVD extras from the interview that didn’t fit into the Poynter post:

1) I asked Dickey why he thought the story resonated so widely, even among a non-sports audience, something he admitted surprised him initially.

As he told me, “I had never seen Catfish.  I guess it’s a huge thing and people really are in love with that show and that movie.  The story also seems to have a really, really powerful appeal, the story of a guy being duped by someone he thought he cared about. . . . College football is very tribal.  People who follow it are incredibly passionate about it, but it has a somewhat narrow appeal overall.  But that said, Notre Dame is the school that has the big crossover appeal, especially when they’re good.  When they’re good, they galvanize the American Catholic population and everybody sort of falls in love with them.  When there’s a story like Te’o’s at the heart of a Notre Dame team it dovetails so that everyone is aware of them in a way they would never be aware of 99.9 percent of college football stories.”

2) On its homepage last Friday, ESPN.com called the Te’o tale “one of the most bizarre sports stories of our age.”  I asked Dickey about his most bizarre moment while reporting on the story.

He said it involved a message he sent to Deadspin EIC Tommy Craggs: “I G-chatted Tommy, ‘I think this might go all the way to Marcus Tuiasosopo.’  I remember Marcus Tuiasosopo as a terrible quarterback.  The fact that he was somehow roped into this thing amped it up to a level of absurdity that I wasn’t expecting it to reach.  I just thought, ‘Oh, wow, this is absolutely nuts.’”

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