She is only 24.
She works for a small local paper called The Patriot News.
Their budget is tighter than the lips of Penn State’s leadership.
Yet, Sara Ganim, a 2008 Penn State graduate, still broke the biggest scandal in NCAA sports history a full seven months before the grand jury report was released in November 2011. Ganim’s award for her 5-part investigative series on March 31, 2011 is well-earned, her investigative reporting was thorough and outstanding, and she is deserving of all the accolades that have and will come her way.
Her triumphant story, more of which can be found here, is an inspiration to any person young or old who wishes to make a positive difference in this world.
However, it is not enough to celebrate Ganim’s individual achievement without addressing some greater institutional questions about mainstream sports media, namely:
Why did ESPN and mainstream sports media ignore Ganim’s story and not follow-up for the next seven months?
Were these entities also complicit in protecting Joe Paterno?
What’s gender got to do with it?
While the first two will be soon addressed, for the purposes of this article, we will focus on the last question:
Outside of bland 30-second half-time interviews, mainstream sports media is not too kind to women. According to the most recent report by The Institute of Diversity and Ethics in Sport, at least 90% of all sports editors, assistant sports editors, reporters, and columnists are men.
Ganim is not merely an inspiration to aspiring female journalists, but likely a prime illustration of why we need more.
Is it merely a coincidence that Ganim’s gender is consistent with others who dared to challenge the existing power structure at Penn State?
In 2005 former Penn State Student Affairs manager, Vicky Triponey once challenged Paterno’s lax discipline policies, and was dismissed by 2007. In 2006, Joanne Tosti-Vasey, president of Pennsylvania’s National Organization for Women, called for Paterno’s resignation for crassly dismissing player allegations of sexual assault. Tosti-Vasey was ignored while Triponey described Penn State’s culture as a “blind sense of loyalty”.
While Ganim, a former Penn State graduate, had every reason to be loyal, she was anything but blind. And for her vision, her story was categorically ignored by mainstream media outside of one obligatory Associated Press article acknowledging her story.
Was Ganim really the only reporter on this planet with a solid lead on Jerry Sandusky’s accusations of child molestation over the last 14 years, and after a full 18 months of Grand Jury testimony by Joe Paterno and others?
Are women more likely to identify, empathize, and expose allegations of sexual assault or any other misconduct instead of looking the other way?
Are men more predisposed to protect their heroes that look like them?
Would real gender diversity in sports media help expose and remove more corruption in the various good ole boy networks that dominate sports?
Are these questions being asked in every national and local sports media outfit in the country?
Congratulations once again to Sara Ganim, and let’s hope that her Pulitzer Prize represents an ongoing conversation, teachable moments, and a spring board to launch institutional change within sports media.
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