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Sara Ganim Wins December Sidney

December, 2011


Sara Ganim, a 24-year-old crime reporter with the Patriot-News of Harrisburg, won the December Sidney for her series of investigations exposing the Penn State sex abuse scandal.

In March, Ganim broke the news that a grand jury was investigating former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky for allegedly sexually abusing a high school football player. She has since interviewed several young men who say that Sandusky abused them.

In November, Ganim revealed that allegations of abuse by Sandusky first surfaced in 1995, but authorities botched investigations.

The Sandusky revelations brought to light an institutional cover-up and Penn State’s president and its legendary head football coach Joe Paterno have already lost their jobs as a result. Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz were also arrested and charged with perjury and failure to report a crime.

"This reporter from a small newspaper took on one of the most powerful institutions in her area and brought down some of the most powerful names in sports, local police, community leaders, and Sandusky's charity," said Hillman judge Lindsay Beyerstein. "For years, everyone put prestige and power ahead of vulnerable children."

Sara Ganim is a crime reporter for the Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Before joining the Patriot-News she covered the crime and courts beat for the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pa. She is a graduate of Penn State University.

Lindsay Beyerstein reached Ganim by phone to talk about her reporting.

How does your experience as a crime reporter shape your coverage of the story? Does your beat give you an edge over sports reporters?

It affects it entirely. As I've said from beginning, this was not a football story. I approached it like every other crime story.

There's a benefit to understanding the criminal process and how things work. A lot of sports reporting is opinion and observation. This story was based solely on facts, not on rumors.

How does this piece compare to your previous reporting?

As a crime reporter, I tend to be covering people on the worst days of their lives, so it’s hard for me to say which tragedy is worse. Though, nothing ever turned out to be this big.

Do you think there were institutional factors at Penn State that enabled the abuse to continue undetected for so long?

It's so early. This story is evolving day by day. I don't know that we know the answer to that. Sexual assault happens a lot. This story puts it on a more high-profile plane.

Many small local papers are struggling to survive in today’s competitive media market and some observers question whether local print press is still relevant. What do your results say about what local beat reporters bring to the table?

I was able to break news because of a deep network of sources I cultivated over years. This is definitely a testament to local reporting--knocking on doors and talking to people.

Have you gotten any offers for book or movie deals yet?

I'm not thinking about any of that right now.

The Patriot-News

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