Two Different Worlds Collide…at Dairy Queen
On one end of the spectrum, there were media members who traveled countless miles from several locations nationwide to represent ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and many other news organizations. It is highly likely that if asked on November 3, none of them would say they had ever heard of nor set foot in Bellefonte, Pa. The polar opposite end featured locals, some who need not travel more than a few minutes. The unplanned but coincidental meeting spot you might ask? Not the Centre County Courthouse, but rather Dairy Queen.
Located on South Allegheny Street, less than forty paces away from the courthouse steps, the fast food chain known for soft serve ice cream and a spot where children may walk to for lunch on weekends or coaches might take a youth sports team to after a game became the place to be before, during, and after, Jerry Sandusky’s preliminary hearing that never really was.
I did not have courtoom access to yesterday’s event. My job was to find a location that would have wireless Internet access and hopefully outlets to charge laptops and phones. From there, I would be in charge of updating a live blog, compiling posts, and tweeting about any activity going on outside the courthouse. Any interesting individuals that I came in contact with would be an added bonus.
Having arrived in Bellefonte well before the sun’s alarm clock was scheduled to go off, the first objective, as stated above, was clear. Within minutes, at approximately 6:40 a.m., Dairy Queen was spotted. Door pulled open, three steps forward, slight left turn, and boom, there we were, outlets.
Within twenty minutes, a walk to and from the bathroom had put me in contact with a Drexel professor and a Widener law student. Another walk to the bathroom shortly before the trial was set to begin resulted with an encounter with gentlemen who had traveled long distances from New York and Tennessee.
While pre-hearing commotion took place, an employee behind the register did her best to not be overwhelmed by the second after second coffee orders from customers. Returning to my seat with a window view, I noticed ESPN employees Bob Ley and Roger Cossack outside, less than twenty feet away from me preparing a segment before the hearing. Directly to my left, was quite the contrast as the table featured an elderly woman, a pink winter hat covering up some wrinkles on her face, curious about legal terminology and what some possible results of the hearing could be.
It is likely that no one could have given her an accurate description. In the firestorm that occurred after Sandusky waived his right to a hearing and defense attorney Joseph Amendola addressed the media, journalists flocked across the street to Dairy Queen in order to tweet updates, file stories, and talk about what had just unfolded.
Penn State football beat writers Cory Giger and Neil Rudel, who can usually be found in a Beaver Stadium press box, sat two tables away. Later in the morning, Sara Ganim of the Patriot- News, responsible for breaking much of the news regarding the investigation, ventured in. These were just a few of many who occupied the small restaurant throughout the morning.
Yesterday was no ordinary hearing preliminary hearing, and directly across the street was no ordinary scene. Perhaps this is all a reflection about the state and demands of the media in 2011 (After all, a ruling 16 hours earlier allowed tweeting from inside the courtoom); however, this felt more than that.
This entire ordeal over the past month has taught me to expect the unexpected, as clichéd as it may sound:
- November 8- Expected a weekly football press conference; it never happened.
- November 9- Expected Joe Paterno to coach through the remainder of the season; he was fired that night.
- Yesterday morning- Expected a hearing to last several hours; it barely made it past a minute.
The final bullet resulted in members of the media relying upon a local Dairy Queen in order to do their jobs, something that neither Bellefonte residents nor anyone else has seen before.