Lennay Kekua's story tempted the many outlets that wrote about her partly because her death gave Te'o's rise, not in itself particularly moving or dramatic, a dimension of tragedy. It made writing about Te'o easier (by reducing the time a story had to spend on his place in the Notre Dame defense), and it sold. In that the (false) story provided good copy, many journalists are grappling with how they approached a common and subtle conflict of interest. Now, however, they can breath a sigh of relief, because Katie Couric's conflict of interest blows theirs out of the water.
Katie Couric's conflict of interest is neither subtle, nor common; she and Te'o, according to the Times, are both clients of the same spokesman, Te'o as of only a few days ago:
The spokesman hired by Mr. Te'o's family in recent days, Matthew Hiltzik, is also the longtime spokesman for Ms. Couric.
Hiltzik has already gotten to work setting the record straight on Te'o's behalf and making sure everyone knows that even smart people, like newspaper writers, were victims of this cruel deception. He comforted the South Bend Tribune yesterday by assuring the paper that its staff were victims too: "It's sad that well-regarded journalists like Eric [Hansen, who wrote of Te'o and Kekua touching hands], who are just trying to do their jobs, have joined the list of victims of this complex web of deceit."
Whatever the full and unvarnished story, we're not likely to hear it during a daytime talk show, while the spokesman for both interviewer and interviewee—already spinning the lie as having victimized both Te'o and the reporters that disseminated it—stands off to the side, nodding. For his first on-camera interview, Te'o chose a Disney-owned channel (just like ESPN, which conducted his first off-camera interview), an interviewer with whom he shares representation, and to go in nestled between his parents. It will air while everyone is at work. Set your DVR, I guess.