Many observers are struck by Penn State’s disastrous crisis management. Since the indictments were handed down late Friday, charging Penn State Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky with unspeakable crimes against children, those involved raised a facade of shock and disbelief.
The late night, weekend statements released by Penn State President Graham Spanier and Coach Joe Paterno expressed shock and sadness. Emergency meetings were held in the dead of night. High ranking heads rolled within hours of receiving “unconditional support.” A regularly scheduled press conference was cancelled and an off-campus, unofficial presser was rumored to be set for later the same day. Reading those statements and interpreting those events, one almost gets the sense that they were blindsided.
No one saw it coming?
Not so fast.The Harrisburg Patriot-News found out about the investigation in March 2009 and began tracking the story a few months later.
Staff writer Sara Ganim first heard about these allegations in March 2009, shortly after they were reported to police. She began working on the story in August of last year after speaking with a couple of people who could corroborate and fill in certain details of the investigation.
Over the next seven months, Sara did reporting in Centre, Mifflin, Clinton and Dauphin counties. She interviewed more than 26 people, often three or four times. We confirmed their statements in other ways, as well.
Nearly everyone in this story spoke on condition of anonymity. That concerned us from the very beginning. At every step, we made certain that at least two different and wholly unrelated people — and nearly always more — reported the same facts.
When you have two (or more) anonymous sources independently providing you with the same information, you run with it. I’ve done it on this blog and watched as the story I wrote unfold as reported. Even in sensitive matters like this, two independent and corroborating sources are solid gold. The only thing more credible is possession of the fabled smoking gun.
The indictment of Sandusky and the media meltdown that has ensued shouldn’t have surprised anyone. It couldn’t have surprised Spanier, Curley, Shultz or Paterno. Not only did they certainly know that the Patriot-News was aware of and actively covering the story. They knew from firsthand knowledge and testimony before the grand jury. They knew.
In March and April of this year, the Patriot-News was publishing and defending themselves against harsh criticism. The column linked above details the careful, meticulous journalism employed in developing their story. So where was the mainstream sports media? What had them so busy at the time that this story slipped between the cracks and hit the bit bucket instead of the front page?