Netflix’s ‘Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist’ chronicles the story of a prolific senior high American linebacker, Manti Malietau Louis Te’o, who fell into the traps of an online catfishing account that sent his professional career and personal life in a spiral. Manti Te’o was a rising star, having joined the prestigious institution of Notre Dame on a football scholarship and meteorically rising to be the next big thing in American football.
Manti Te’o’s already inspiring story got a Hollywood twist when he lost both his grandmother and long-distance girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, in a span of 24 hours, and yet saw Notre Dame to the championship game. However, underneath all the glitter and glaze was a disturbing twist that was uncovered by two Deadspin journalists — Jack Dickey and Tim Burke. Who is Jack Dickey, and where is he now? Let’s find out.
Who is Jack Dickey?
Born and raised in the town of Guilford in Connecticut, Jack Dickey was working as an unpaid staff writer at Deadspin, getting paid “in sandwiches and an occasional bottle of booze” when he received an anonymous tip that alleged Manti’s dead girlfriend never existed. Therefore, Jack decided to investigate the issue further. With the help of his colleague Tim Burke, Jack set on to unravel one of the fastest spreading Deadspin reports ever. In the report, the duo broke the story that Manti’s long-distance girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, whom he met online, was an elaborate case of catfish in January 2013.
A 2009 Philips Academy graduate, Jack was just a senior studying English at Columbia University at the time. Just days after Jack and Tim became the guys who broke the hoax scandal, the former spoke about the process in an interview with Boston Magazine. Calling the whole investigation process “bizarre,” Jack expressed that the fact that Manti “was somehow connected to this was only fitting. We wound up turning over rocks we never expected to turn over.”
Jack further revealed how the whole team brought it all together. “[Deadspin editor-in-chief] Tommy Craggs and Burke helped me research on Friday afternoon, and then Tim and I spent all weekend, and all of Monday and most of Tuesday, looking into the mystery of this story. [Writers] Dom Cosentino and Tom Ley made a bunch of calls then too. Then Craggs and [managing editor] Tom Scocca edited the thing on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, and then we were basically ready to go.”
The report not only brought the catfishing tale to the forefront but also involved two NFL players —Manti and Marques Tuiasosopo, who was a relative of the perpetrator, Ronaiah ‘Naya’ Tuiasosopo. Manti’s reputation took a big hit, and he got picked up in the NFL second draft only, costing him “not only his dignity in some ways but millions and millions of dollars,” as stated by Sports broadcaster Alex Flanagan.
Where is Jack Dickey Now?
In July 2013, nearly six months since the story he worked upon made national headlines, Jack Dickey left Deadspin after working there since January 2011. That same year, he graduated from Columbia University magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. In August 2013, right after graduation, he was roped in as the Staff Writer for Time Magazine. While there, Jack wrote feature profiles on Former US Representative Jason Chaffetz, statistician Nate Silver, television personality and chef Alton Brown, and President and CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery David Zaslav, among others.
I think my next career will be as a consultant who charges companies $50k, then says "We have to *get* e-sports" and leaves the room.
— Jack Dickey (@jackdickey) April 8, 2016
At just 24, Jack bagged the opportunity to write a cover story on Taylor Swift in 2014. Talking about Jack’s determination at New York Daily News Innovation Lab’s ‘Conversation Series,’ Edward Felsenthal, now Editor-in-Chief and CEO at TIME, said, “First week he walked in with the idea, and said he refused to write it until he had access to Taylor Swift. With the perseverance of someone of more experience than he actually has, he got to her and broke news in his cover story and wrote beautiful 2,000 word piece.”
The face when you miss a question and then realize it was about weed. pic.twitter.com/4FswtkjJOG
— Jack Dickey (@jackdickey) April 4, 2018
After over three years at Time Magazine, Jack left the job and moved on to work as a full-time Staff Writer at Sports Illustrated. He appeared in ‘The Best American Sportswriting’ in 2014 and was awarded the Nellie Bly Cub Reporter in 2015 by the New York Press Club. He is a member of The NewsGuild of New York and Communications Workers of America. Interestingly, Jack became a two-time Jeopardy! Champion in 2018, heading home with a check of nearly $50,000. Jack is a longtime-Mets fan and often expresses his dissatisfaction when his favorite baseball team doesn’t yield promising results.
It may be the Mets’ biggest series in years but Ron and Gary can still find time to talk Marina Abramovic (and Warhol’s SLEEP, though not mentioned by name). How lucky are we?
— Jack Dickey (@jackdickey) August 6, 2022
When asked what he’d be if not a journalist, Jack told New York Guild, “I’d be general manager of the Mets. Or a federal prosecutor. And I’d bring charges against the Mets for all the harm they’ve inflicted.” When he is not reporting, Jack likes to cook, watch sports and read. He is also quite active on social media and doesn’t mince words when sharing his opinions on pop culture, politics, and everything in between. At present, Jack lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York, where he serves as an editor and writer covering culture, politics, media, and sports.