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Covering Penn State: How do you report on the victims and not-yet-convicted officials?



jerrysandusky--joe-paterno-02-custom-2.jpgThis is my column, published Wednesday on Indiana University's National Sports Journalism Center website:

"The sexual abuse scandal currently enveloping Penn State and its storied coach Joe Paterno epitomizes the best – and most challenging — moment for sports journalists: The instant when a blockbuster story explodes from an item on the sports pages to something much, much more.

In the case of Paterno and Penn State, it’s the allegation that officials at the college turned a blind eye to evidence longtime defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky molested a child in the football team’s shower facility nearly ten years ago.

jerry_sandusky_wy_111107_wg.jpgSandusky was arrested Saturday and charged with sexually abusing eight boys over 15 years.

The key evidence here is a Grand Jury report alleging a graduate student saw Sandusky having sex with a 10-year-old boy in the showers at the college in 2002 and reported the incident to Paterno, who told his superiors at Penn State.

But no one told the police or tried to find the boy, and Sandusky was allowed to live free and keep an office on the campus – despite a grand jury investigation into his activities while running a charity for troubled boys called Second Mile.

Awful as these details are, they also dovetail with an important moment in American culture, as news media grow more willing to probe allegations of sexual crimes and improprieties than ever before, giving victims new platforms and forcing journalists to face tough questions about coverage habits.

erinandrews1.jpgFor evidence of this, look no further than the latest sexually-charged scandal to touch the Worldwide Leader; former ESPN senior vice president of content development and enterprise Keith Clinkscalesodd lawsuit complaining that a colleague was spreading falsehoods about him pleasuring himself on a flight while sitting next to anchor Erin Andrews."

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[Last modified: Thursday, November 10, 2011 1:55pm]


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