The Media’s Penn State “Exclusives”
NBC News had a legitimate exclusive this week when Bob Costas conducted that riveting, uncomfortable but fascinating phone interview with accused Penn State child molester, Jerry Sandusky. Costas had the perfect demeanor and asked all the right questions and had about 15 minutes notice. A masterful job by Costas.
CBS News, meantime, claimed an exclusive with Penn State Assistant Coach, Mike McQueary that lasted all of 20 seconds and in which he refused to talk about the case. The great headline was that McQueary described his emotions as “shaken” and that he felt like a “snowglobe.”
Yes, as CBS breathlessly touted in marketing its “exclusive,” these were McQueary’s first comments since the abuse scandal broke. That’s technically correct. They also said a window had been opened into his emotions. I’m sorry, but claiming an exclusive because a guy talked into your microphone for less than half a minute and said he felt like a snow globe is not in any way, shape or form- an exclusive. Calling it that is marketing and possibly journalistic malpractice.
Rush to Judgment?
McQueary, of course, is said in the grand jury report, to have witnessed the rape of a young boy by Sandusky in the Penn State football team’s showers ten years ago and then told his father about it before contacting head coach, Joe Paterno. He has been vilified in the media for not having taken action to stop the alleged assault. He has received death threats and was placed on administrative leave and did not roam the sidelines for last Saturday’s Penn State-Nebraska game.
It has since been revealed that McQueary sent an e-mail to a friend in which he says, that though he did not take physical action to stop the assault he witnessed, he did take measures that stopped the incident. He also said he had discussions with police and with the university official in charge of the police.
Everyone is understandably shocked at the vile nature of the allegations against Sandusky. There is much justifiable outrage aimed at a lot of people. But a grand jury indictment contains allegations that have not been challenged by defense attorneys and does not convict anyone- it only provides cause for charges to be filed.
It might be wise to put our pitch forks and torches away for awhile and wait for more facts to become established. The place for that is Sandusky’s trial. And until it delivers a verdict based on facts and witnesses and cross-examination, even Mr. Sandusky is considered innocent.
Until then, we can provide our sympathy for the victims and do things like bemoan the state of college athletics. But it really would be wise to be patient and prudent. And that especially goes for hungry media organizations falling all over themselves for “exclusives” on this story.
There really has been some great investigative journalism, especially by local newspapers like the Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania whose crime reporter, Sara Ganim published the first accounts of the scandal in late March, well before the grand jury’s indictment was handed up. But CBS’ overhyped “exclusive” reporting this week is not even remotely in that same neighborhood.