On Wednesday, a mainstream news outlet that prides itself on news and often mocks blogs or new media outlets for publishing gossip ran a story solely based on pieces information the outlet even conceded “were not originals” and “could not be independently verified.”
That outlet was ESPN. And the information in question was Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s alleged phone records.
ESPN, in its story, wrote (emphasis added):
A source close to Te’o gave ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap documents that the source says are Te’o’s AT&T phone records from May 11 to Sept. 12, the date that the woman was supposed to have died. The logs are not originals, but spreadsheets sent via emails, and could not be independently verified.
And yet, ESPN featured the story on its website and further amplified and highlighted on SportsCenter throughout the day, as this screenshot, which Deadspin–the outlet that broke the story while ESPN sat on it–captured.
ESPN claimed the records in the spreadsheets, which could not be independently verified to be accurate, revealed:
The records show that in that four-month span — when Te’o has said he believed Lennay Kekua to be in a Los Angeles hospital recovering from an accident and being treated for cancer — Te’o made and received more than 1,000 calls totaling more than 500 hours in length from the same number in the 661 area code. The 661 area code covers Lancaster, which is part of Los Angeles County. The source told Schaap that Te’o believed the 661 phone number in question was Kekua’s.