Jerry Sandusky Scandal: How the Media Is Missing a Golden Opportunity

Matthew Smith@@MatthewSmithBRCorrespondent IIISeptember 6, 2012

BELLEFONTE, PA - JUNE 21:  Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky arrives at his child sex abuse trial at the Centre County Courthouse on June 21, 2012 in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Closing arguments will begin today in the sexual abuse trial of Jerry Sandusky, who is charged with 51 criminal counts of sexual abuse on 10 boys over a 15-year period.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The national sports media is missing out on a prime opportunity to affect change as it relates to the Jerry Sandusky nightmare.

First, for the victims of Jerry Sandusky, there is no judicial or NCAA punishment severe enough to offset the pain Sandusky caused through his malicious, premeditated and Penn State University co-opted actions.

With that said, it is time sports journalists step up and demand more.

Newspapers, magazines and the blogosphere, in general, have approached the situation in one of two ways.

First, they simply report the facts of the case. 

From the Freeh Report to university email exchanges, the facts of the case are laid out for America to absorb and formulate their own conclusions. Pick a rooting interest, if you will. 

Jon Wertheim, from Sports Illustrated, touched on how America used the facts of the case and transferred learned behaviors from the field to the courtroom when he wrote on June 25 that America “followed the battle between the offense and defense as those on-hand (courtside observers, as it were) told us which side ‘landed blows’ or ‘scored points.’"

Well said, but it misses the point.

The second way the media tends to approach the story is to denounce those who failed to step up, because winning became more important than the victims, or to speak of hope.

David Haugh, from the Chicago Tribune, wrote on June 23 that “Penn State officials simply watched as football became more important than anything else, blinding normally responsible people with vision.” 

Michael Rosenberg, also from SI, hopes the facts of the case would be enough to begin a conversation. “I hope,” he wrote, “when that happens, we do more than just wonder. I hope we ask questions and keep asking them.”

Great sentiments, to be sure, but they also miss the mark.

The point is that this moment in American history is a teachable one. Very rarely are incidents more teachable than this one, and we are not teaching it.

Stop hoping and teach. 

The media needs to stretch their arms and demand that this reaches all levels of education. The only seminar course that could be found was on how to handle this type of situation from a journalistic perspective. It covered how to interview victims, process impact reports and professionally report on sensitive material. That is simply not enough.

Every education major at the university level, every student who hopes to one day coach or become a trainer needs a seminar course on this tragedy.

The individual participants at Penn State like Joe Paterno, Penn State vice president Gary Schultz, athletic director Tim Curley and former assistant Mike McQueary, to name a few, either did not know how to respond or chose not to.

Moving forward, we can TEACH future authority figures how to appropriately respond when confronted with this. They can be TAUGHT how far to take the matter and what the consequences of inaction are. 

Will this nightmare be as fresh in America’s mind in 10 years as it is now when Sandusky’s final sentencing is approaching? 

It will be if we begin TEACHING it to the next generation.

This is a mainstream media call-to-arms. Demand change, don’t hope for it. Stop talking about lessons and demand that the education system do something about it.

I, for one, have sent the president of my alma mater an email telling him in unequivocal terms that a university based on social justice MUST make this a mandatory piece of the curriculum.  What Sandusky did is on par with the most seminal moments in American history.

His name is now forever woven into the fabric of America and cannot be left to fade away.

This is about children and responsibility.

This is that serious and we should be demanding more.