With another day of wall-to-wall media coverage of the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky story, I’ll provide some links and at the end, some thoughts what has transpired through our computer, TV and mobile screens over the last few days.
First some links.
From the Poynter Institute, ESPN Ombudsmen Jason C. Fry and Kelly McBride are highly critical of the Alleged Worldwide Leader’s early coverage of the scandal.
I wonder if ESPN Front Row issued a podcast with Executive Vice President Norby Williamson explaining the coverage in response to the Ombudsman column.
Through “ESPN.com News Services”, we have a timeline on the Jerry Sandusky case and his alleged child molestations.
In the Beaver County Times back in April, Pittsburgh sports radio talk host Mark Madden penned a column outlining some of the allegations against Sandusky and wondered how the whole thing would play out.
Then today, Madden appeared on Boston station WEEI and unloaded a bombshell saying Sandusky possibly pimped out boys to rich donors to his charity, the Second Mile Foundation. Let us hope that is not true.
Writing for the Indiana University National Sports Journalism Center, Eric Deggans of the St. Petersburg Times says the Penn State story is causing some serious challenges for sports reporters.
At Outkick The Coverage, Clay Travis has the video of the news conference held by the Penn State Board of Trustees announcing Joe Paterno’s firing and the embarrassing line of questions from student reporters.
Ben Koo from Awful Announcing critiques last night’s coverage from CNN, ESPN and Big Ten Network.
Speaking of CNN, Guyism has the video of British CNN anchor Isha Sesay having a little trouble with the concept of American football during last night’s Anderson Cooper 360°.
Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch speaks with Big Ten Network President Mark Silverman about the channel’s coverage or lack thereof on the Penn State coverage.
Marlen Garcia of USA Today speaks with some public relations professionals on Penn State’s handling of the crisis.
In a related note, Keith Thibault of Sports Media Journal and I talked with Gail Sideman of the PR and media firm, PUBLISIDE, for her take on the story.
Dan Fogarty at SportsGrid has ESPN’s Jay Bilas not mincing his words on the scandal.
To Lost Letterman where it has a video of ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi forgetting where he’s reporting from.
At the Daily Beast, the bombastic Buzz Bissinger goes ballistic on Penn State and Joe Paterno.
Aly Semigran of Entertainment Weekly says an uninformed tweet on Joe Paterno by Two and a Half Men star Ashton Kutcher is causing the actor to stop going on Twitter for now.
Dave Goren, the Executive Director of the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association, gives praise to the men and women who have covered this story.
After the Penn State Board of Trustees press conference, students went into State College where light poles were overturned and a satellite TV news van belonging to WTAJ-TV in Altoona, PA was tipped over.
The Big Lead notes that Sports Illustrated’s Joe Posnanski has been strangely silent on the Penn State story as he was authoring a book on Coach Paterno.
And Bob’s Blitz has video of WFAN’s Craig Carton lecturing a Penn State journalism student who called in to defend Coach Paterno.
Now to the coverage this week.
In a story which has blindsided many fans and observers, the media with the exception of a couple of outlets has been playing catch up on a story that has been percolating for a long time. Through the coverage of the Harrisburg Patriot-News and the Daily Collegian, it’s noted that newspapers are far from dead. They just need a story to lead the coverage and the Patriot-News has done just that. The PN’s special section on the Sandusky story led by reporter Sarah Ganim has been stellar and been updated almost hourly. Her interviews with two victims’ mothers and a sister have been extraordinary.
The Daily Collegian is doing what independent student newspapers rarely do. Be on top of a story and not let go. Its reporting of the riots in downtown State College plus use of Twitter was the way to inform readers and get information accurately and quickly.
As far as the television coverage has been concerned, it’s been spotty. ESPN wants to be known as the leader when it comes to breaking news in sports, but it was caught dead to right when the Sandusky story surfaced. At first, people were questioning if ESPN was protecting interests as it did a couple of years ago with the Ben Roethlisberger alleged sexual assault. But as the story ramped up on Monday, ESPN sent reporters to the scene, trying to blanket the Penn State campus. However, ESPN continued to use its analysts like Kirk Herbstreit via the phone to talk about the story.
It also had the memorable scene of PSU alum Matt Millen breaking down on SportsCenter in front of anchor Chris McKendry on Tuesday following the school’s cancellation of a weekly press conference involving Coach Paterno. But ESPN’s constant promotion of that emotional breakdown throughout the day seemed as if the network was trying to exploit that moment and create news.
On Wednesday when the PSU Board of Trustees called a press conference at 10 p.m. ET, ESPN had trouble with its borrowed live truck and had to rely on a phone to get sound to viewers. It was quite bizarre hearing the announcement of the firing via a static phone signal while video of the coach was being played on the screen.
It was CNN that had live pictures and also the start of the student gathering on the Penn State campus, then in downtown State College. As noted earlier, anchor Isha Sesay was a little bewildered about football, however, remember CNN is a news network, not a sports network. Also, Anderson Cooper 360° is aired not only in the US, but around the world on CNN International, so I can give Isha a pass for her lack of knowledge on American sports. But during its coverage of the breaking story, CNN was on top of the press conference, the start of the riots and interviews with local reporters and college football writers until it broke away around midnight to go to political coverage. During the two hours CNN and ESPN simultaneously carried the story, I give the edge to CNN by a wide margin.
In the moments after the Board of Trustees press conference, ESPN chose not to show pictures of the students’ groundswell and instead went to dueling analysts. The story was the growing number of students on campus and then into town, not talking with Matt Millen, Kirk Herbstreit, Chris Fowler and Rece Davis.
Later, ESPN did go to reporters on the ground, but it was handicapped by a lack of live pictures from the scene whether it was in State College or at Joe Paterno’s house where the coach gave statements to the media. ESPN had to depend on footage from outside the Disney family, Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia, NBC’s regional sports network and KYW, a CBS owned-and-operated station. While ABC Radio’s Aaron Katersky and in-house reporter John Barr were big assets in ESPN’s coverage, Tom Rinaldi and ABC’s Mi Seon Lee were not as both seemed to be stationed at the wrong locations to be effective.
The only demerit in CNN’s coverage was bringing in media opportunist Dr. Phil to discuss the Sandusky case with Anderson Cooper. While Dr. Phil may have said something substantial on the story, it appeared excessive to have him interviewed.
And the Big Ten Network did have coverage on Wednesday, but when it needed to step up big, the channel chose to air a “classic” game instead of the Board of Trustees press conference. Big Ten Network is not a bastion of journalism, but I do expect it to air some press conferences when it had the opportunity.
But the most bizarre moment was at 1 a.m. ET when ESPN was re-airing KYW footage of the Board of Trustees press conference when it switched without warning to NBA Commissioner David Stern announcing the Lockout negotiations would continue into Thursday. No comments from anchors Steve Levy or Stuart Scott, just a sudden switch. You could not make that up.
Overall, the TV coverage has been above average. ESPN which is expected to step up in breaking stories only did so late. Its resources have not been put to good use and lack of live pictures last night were telling. It still has time to make a dent in the coverage, but right now, I’m depending on the old fashioned print outlets to provide the stories.