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Joe Paterno Speaks to Washington Post

This afternoon, the Washington Post will publish a story that many of us have been waiting months to read. Joe Paterno has been virtually silent since his firing this fall, and what this interview will cover remains to be seen. The questions that need to be asked are numerous, though.

At President Rodney Erickson’s first two alumni town hall meetings this week, a startling number of the questions focused on Joe Paterno’s termination as head football coach and the Board’s treatment of him. In New York City, the questions were markedly improved, and that’s the direction in which we need to continue heading. Paterno matters in this story, but before we can think about the impact on him, we need to think about the children past, present, and future. What happened here? How could such a shameful failure of leadership be tolerated at an institution where success with honor has been a hallmark cry?

In the lead-up to the article coming out, it’s worth thinking about why the Washington Post’s Sally Jenkins was the first to speak with Paterno. It could have to do with the fact that Jenkins is the author of a column titled ‘Blame for the Penn State Scandal Does Not Lie With Joe Paterno’ published on November 8 that opened:

Try to forgive Joe Paterno: When he looked at Jerry Sandusky, he didn’t see a dirty old man in a raincoat. He saw a friend, a close colleague, and a churchy do-gooder. He saw a nice guy. You’d have seen the same thing.

No doubt Joe and his family had a major say in the decision to go with Jenkins (and not, say, Sara Ganim), but the ex-coach has also had a man named Dan McGinn, CEO of Arlington-based TMG Strategies, handling media relations since at least November 9. McGinn, a former Washington Post op-ed contributor, was almost certainly the person to have signed off on this specific public relations strategy, including the decision to start with the Washington Post.

Joe Paterno’s first interview since his termination by the Penn State Board of Trustees will be read with supreme interest by all Penn Staters. Let’s just hope that the Washington Post has kept its focus on what matters most in these dire times — not the impolite treatment of powerful men to one another, but the moral failure of an institution so great as to put the safety of children into jeopardy. Until we can explain what happened here, we will be unable to truly move on as a community.

Check back here at 4:00 p.m. for Onward State staff and reader reactions to the interview, but in the meantime, we’d like to know:

What would you have asked Joe Paterno if it had been you?

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