Part of the appeal of the investigative report on Manti Te’o and the non-existence of Lennay Kekua that Deadspin published on January 16th was its lack of a conclusion. Yes, the wonderful research by Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey left little doubt that a hoax had been perpetrated, most certainly on us, and possibly on Manti Te’o. However, there was a sense of open sourcing to the story. Like a software developer more concerned with creating something useful than actually making money from the creation, Deadspin left possibilities open for readers to discover on their own. The website quoted someone who was “80 percent sure,” and left hints as to how those using social media might find more information through online searches.
In contrast, it’s been widely judged that ESPN, who was made aware of something fishy to do with Te’o's dead girlfriend a day before Deadspin, fumbled the story by attempting to land an interview with Te’o prior to publishing anything, and generally taking too long to track a story that took place largely through social media and online technology. However, even if they had been timelier with a report on Te’o and Kekua, I doubt that the story would have had the same appeal. I doubt that the story would’ve left room for ownership by anyone else other than ESPN.