Ever since Joe Paterno was removed from his position as head coach of the football team, Happy Valley has not been so happy. Being not only a student at Penn State, but also a journalist, when it comes to this story, I am torn between my objectivity and my pride for my school. Watching the media twisting and turning the story around, squeezing every angle they can out of it makes me feel internally divided. In the end a bad situation and a swarm of coverage destroyed the career and reputation of one of the most respected men in the Penn State community.
I am not going to express my opinion of whether or not Joe Paterno deserved to be fired, but I want to address the issue of how the media handled this specticale and why I am so upset at how it played out. The only name I have heard lately when Penn State is discussed is Paterno, while I can’t remember the last time I heard Jerry Sandusky’s name. What happened was a tragedy, but Paterno is not the one on trial for egregious acts, Sandusky is.
As a journalist, I understand the intentions of the press while covering the story. They were trying to investigate every detail to inform the public of the true situation. However, they forgot how tragic the situation was. Journalistic ethics were not the issue with what occurred, but more the coverage on the matter. They concentrated on reprimanding Paterno, rather than sympathizing for the children involved.
Whether or not Paterno did the right thing is not what upset the students on campus. It was the actions by the administration without more details and the quick, cold way they were carried out. Furthermore, in the media Paterno has been presented as a scapegoat, and that’s not OK. So you can see students rioted in November for more than just the firing of a man who has been a symbol of our school for over 50 years. When a select few students tipped a media van, the intention was to make a statement against the skewed, press coverage that was destroying the reputation of our school. I believe that some of the rioting was unnecessary — but not without reason.
As a journalist I am disappointed in how the media handled such a terrible tragedy that strikes very close to home for me. I just hope that through all the uproar, everyone takes a moment to step back and think of the kids and remember what this scandal is all about.
As for us, we are still Penn State, we are still For the Kids and we will always have success with honor.