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The Media’s Penn State “Exclusives”

November 16, 2011 Leave a comment

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.

A Very Special Evening Honoring Courage

March 5, 2010 4 comments

The Radio Television Digital News Foundation held it’s 20th anniversary dinner last night at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington.   It honored individuals in broadcasting who fight the good fight to make the 1st Amendment to the Constitution more than just words.

The highlight for me came when CBS News Radio Vice President and dear friend, Harvey Nagler, received his award for his 40 years of service toward that end and graciously put the spotlight, not on himself, but on his brave and couragious correspondent, and also my dear friend, Cami McCormick.   Cami attended the dinner, one of her first public appearances since she narrowly escaped death and survived an IED attack in Afghanistan last August.

Cami has never asked for the spotlight and I hope she won’t be upset that I am writing about last night’s event.  As Harvey recounted the scary and awful events of last summer, he paused in his speech, and as his voice cracked with understandable emotion, said he was going to do something he never thought would have been possible.  He asked Cami to stand and be recognized.   As a literal, bright spotlight shone on her, Cami confidently defied the odds one more time and mustered the strength to get up from her wheelchair and stand before the whole world on her injured legs.

It was a moment I will never forget.  A moment of victory for Cami, for free speech, for the courage it takes to risk life and limb to report the truth.   To literally stand for the 1st Amendment.

Cami has a “bumper sticker” on her Facebook wall that reads: “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” 

Your strength continues to be an inspiration to us all, Cami.   We all love you so much.