The New York Times has the background on the scoop that's torturing ESPN executives:
On Jan. 16, a fierce debate raged inside ESPN. Reporters for the network had been working for almost a week trying to nail down an extraordinary story: Manti Te’o’s girlfriend — the one whose death from leukemia had haunted and inspired him during a triumphant year on the field for Notre Dame — might be a hoax.
Some inside the network argued that its reporters — who had initially been put onto the story by Tom Condon, Te’o’s agent — had enough material to justify publishing an article. Others were less sure and pushed to get an interview with Te’o, something that might happen as soon as the next day. For them, it was a question of journalistic standards. They did not want to be wrong.
Meanwhile, across town:
Deadspin, its editor said in an interview this week, had also received a tip about the hoax, a day after ESPN had been alerted. The Web site assigned two reporters to the story. At the heart of the article Deadspin published was a reverse-image Internet search of the photograph on Twitter that Te’o, a star linebacker, had relied upon as proof of Kekua’s existence. It had been lifted from the Facebook account of an unsuspecting California woman who had never spoken with Te’o.
And that's the story of how a reverse image search proved better than waiting for an official statement or on-camera interview, kids.