Professor Rich Hanley offers insight on how the news media became entangled in a hoax at Notre Dame

Professor Rich Hanley

Professor Rich Hanley

The news media has been following a story about a Notre Dame football player grieving over his dead girlfriend, which turned out to be a hoax. Notre Dame star Manti Te’o’s grandmother died in September, followed quickly by a woman he had a relationship with online. Te’o told the media that the losses inspired his impressive performance on the field. Much of the story unfolded on the social media site Twitter. On Tuesday, a story on the sports site Deadspin exposed numerous factual discrepancies, including the identity of the woman and reports of her death.

Rich Hanley, who directs the graduate journalism program in the School of Communications, is available to comment.

Hanley says, “The media covering Notre Dame and college football wanted to believe in the story that seemed to percolate from the deep core of the sport’s mythology itself: a college with a legendary football team awakening from decades of irrelevance, a hero, a dying girl, and, finally, honor on the field in her name.  That desire blinded coverage even when it could have been revealed through pro forma journalistic practices: confirming basic details with local police, local funeral homes and even local newspapers or online sites.

“The legions of media that follow Notre Dame football all failed here in the most significant media hoax since Clifford Irving claimed he wrote the autobiography of Howard Hughes generations ago, only this one is caught up with contemporary technology and a Clintonian twist in the defining of a key word, in this case ‘met.’

“Journalists must now seek to advance the story, from a hoax to the realm of fraud and possible institutional cover-up. Whether they have the stomach for it remains to be seen.”

If you’re interested in interviewing Hanley, please contact John Morgan, associate vice president for public relations at Quinnipiac University, 203-206-4449 (cell) or 203-582-5359 (office).

Categories: Hot Topics, School of Communications

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