We should really be used to this by now.
Board of Trustees chairman Keith Masser made headlines earlier this week after a USA Today editorial called “Penn State leaders don’t endorse Sandusky coverup findings” said that Masser classified the Freeh report’s conclusions about Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier, Tim Curley, and Gary Schultz as “speculation” in an interview with the newspaper.
The video attached to the editorial indicated no such sentiment but dozens of media outlets, including this one, picked up the story and ran with it ironically based on that one word — “speculation.” PS4RS and the Paterno family both chimed in. Patriot News reporter Charlie Thompson even called Masser’s remarks to USA Today a “(complete) personal, 180-degree turn on the Freeh Report on Penn State’s role in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal that was over a year in the making.”
It turns out that it wasn’t really worth the hullabaloo.
Masser penned a PR-conscious letter to the editor to USA Today only two days later that charged the newspaper with running a “sensational headline” and calling the editorial a “gross misrepresentation.” This letter much better aligns with the company line the trustees have been following for most of the last year:
Fellow trustees Keith Eckel, Paul Silvis and I met with USA TODAY editors and reporters. We shared the remarkable progress that has been made at Penn State over the past year. Unfortunately, USA TODAY mischaracterized that conversation (“Penn State leaders don’t endorse Sandusky coverup findings“).
Our Board’s focus has been to identify where our system broke down and implement changes to better protect our students, faculty and community. To make those changes, we needed an independent investigation into how Jerry Sandusky was allowed to do what he did on our campus. That investigation became known as the “Freeh report.”
The first aspect of the report was 119 recommendations on how our university could improve our structure, process and transparency. We are proud to say we have completed 115 of them.
The second aspect was former FBI director Louis Freeh’s “conclusions.” The report provided documents that led to assertions about the motives of former Penn State leaders.
In our discussions with USA TODAY, we stated that the Board did not vote on the conclusions, because it is not within our purview or our fiduciary responsibility to do so.
Despite clarifying this point, USA TODAY ran a sensational headline implying that we somehow rejected the Freeh report. That is a gross misrepresentation.
I am proud of our community’s willingness to take the hard but necessary road, and we remain optimistic about what we can accomplish.
Carry on, I suppose.