Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Media and Penn State: One Year Later


The Penn State University scandal involving Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno happened over a year ago already, but it is still making headlines.

The media has been jumping at the chance to do follow up stories examining how the people of Penn State, as well as the city State College, have been affected. One such story appeared on a Nov. 5 regional cover of Sports Illustrated titled, “We Are Still Penn State,” which followed a July article from the magazine called “We Were Penn State.”

The article by S.L. Price argues Penn State University and the surrounding area are too focused on football, continuing to chant the famous “We Are Penn State,” even in the wake of the scandal. This statement of affiliation is now controversial and even called “self defense” by Price. The community is now being criticized for supporting their team.

Price quotes Penn State professor R. Scott Kretchmar saying, “Everybody, when they hear ‘Kent State,” thinks of a massacre. Whenever they hear ‘Penn State,’ they’re going to think of this.” Unfortunately for the community trying to put the scandal in the past, this is most likely true.

Price has an interesting take on the matter, and he shares the belief with the NCAA that Penn State is too football focused. The article, however, unfairly places the guilt on the students, fans and supporters of Penn State. The subtitle even reads “Defiance, Collective Guilt, Revival…Happy Valley One Year Later.”

Price criticizes the people who still support the football program and the university, agreeing with the NCAA decree saying, “The reverence for Penn State football permeated every level of the university community.” But it was the school officials who are guilty of this, not the community and fans that support their favorite team. They were unaware of Sandusky’s actions.

Other members of the media, mainly in State College, have fired back at Price’s article. In Patty Klein’s article, “Sports Illustrated Misses the Mark with Penn State Cover One Year After Sandusky Scandal,” she expressed her frustration at being made to feel guilty. Klein argues the community should not be responsible, as they didn’t know more than any other person in the country did. Rather, blame should be placed on the people who were aware and failed to take action. The surrounding community was rocked by scandal and should not be criticized or feel guilty just because of where they live.

One quote in Klein’s article that caught my eye described how the Penn State scandal has been handled compared to other college scandals in the past few years. She writes, “Penn State has accepted the sanctions even though we look around and see other universities whose crimes were actually related to athletics or academics and the NCAA looks the other way.” While I don’t believe the NCAA looked the other way in these cases, the media definitely has placed more emphasis on Penn State than other schools. The Sandusky scandal is without a doubt a bigger problem than the Ohio State or University of Southern California issues, but the media has let those issues rest. Those communities weren’t blamed for the football team’s problems or featured in “one year later” specials.

While there may be some bias in Klein’s article as she is a Penn State alumna and a writer for an area website, I agree with her more than Price. The State College community should not feel guilty for trying to return to normal and supporting their football team.

Though Sandusky is now in prison, other court cases are just beginning including cases filed by the victims’ families. The media’s attention will be on the area for many months to come. It is going to be hard for the community to ever restore their reputation especially with articles, like Price’s, continuing to fault the wrong people and making them feel guilty for moving on.