Last night, the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism hosted “A Conversation about Covering Controversy.” A panel of esteemed journalists, moderated by Malcolm Moran, answered several questions from students regarding November’s events. The panel consisted of Mark Viera of The New York Times, Sara Ganim of the Harrisburg Patriot-News, Jerry Micco of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Christine Brennan of USA Today,and Jeremy Schaap from ESPN and ABC. Here are some quotes from the conversation:
The discussion began by Sara Ganim explaining that she never would’ve thought that case would blow up so quickly. She also said that this is a normal case for her, except this one is in the national spotlight. “On a larger scale, this is the story I cover all the time,” she said.
A student then asked the panel if the media coverage would’ve been a little different if it was a girl who had been abused. Christine Brennan responded, “The story would’ve been completely different.”
ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap said that it was interesting how even though there were horrific charges on Sandusky and university officials perjured (Schultz and Curley), the story was still all about Joe Paterno. “This story was about Joe Paterno and that’s what most of America cared about.”
When asked why the media closely scrutinized Joe Paterno, Christine Brennan responded, “Because we are sports journalists, we had to focus on the sports aspect.” She also firmly called Joe’s actions “fireable.” Mark Viera added, “This story would not have been the lead story on ESPN or CNN if it weren’t for Joe Paterno.” Brennan then told the students on hand that just because the media covered Joe so comprehensively doesn’t mean they forgot about the victims and Sandusky.
A student then uttered perhaps the quote of the night: “Everyone is asking what does this do to the Penn State legacy, when it’s Penn State’s legacy that got us here in the first place.”
A student then asked the panel about Penn State’s upcoming bowl prospects. Christine Brennan provided a strong stance as to why Penn State shouldn’t participate in bowl season. “I believe we are seeing the worst scandal in college sports…a bowl game is a privilege, not a right.” She also said, “The last thing Penn State should be doing is celebrating football at this time.”
Malcolm Moran asked Sara Ganim how long it was going to take for the scandal to play out in it’s entirety. She responded, “We’re going to be talking about this for… 25 years.”
Regarding the coverage of the scandal and Joe Paterno, Jeremy Schaap said, “The media’s job is to keep pushing.” Jerry Micco said the media coverage has been “fair.” Christine Brennan even went as far to say, “I think journalists came and saved the day.”
Towards the end of the discussion, Jerry Micco from the Post-Gazette: “I think there can be change, but it starts with the students…Penn State is a great school.” Jerry then got very choked up on stage. “It shouldn’t have happened. Make sure it never happens again.” An emotional moment for everyone in the room.
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Ryan is a senior in the Smeal College of Business majoring in Marketing. He is a Lion Ambassador who loves giving tours to prospective students. His favorite activities include distributing news and consuming Chipotle.
A week after 2012 Penn State graduate Kyle Chase Johnson tragically died while running the Pittsburgh half marathon, local muralist Michael Pilato painted his likeness on the Heister Street mural, a fitting tribute for a man who, by all accounts, was a quintessential Penn Stater.