Sara Ganim Wins December Sidney Award for Coverage of Penn State Sex Abuse Scandal
Ever since she broke the news in March that former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky was under grand jury investigation for the alleged sexual abuse of a high school boy, 24-year-old Sara Ganim of the Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Pa has covered the unfolding scandal with unrelenting determination.
Sandusky was indicted on multiple counts of sexual abuse and the University of Penn Board of Regents sacked legendary head football coach Joe Paterno and university president. Such a dramatic gesture might have deflected public outrage against the university, if Ganim hadn’t revealed in November that that authorities missed opportunities to investigate Sandusky, starting in 1995 with concerns about Sandusky’s treatment of a boy he later adopted.
A janitor told his supervisor that he saw Sandusky assaulting a boy in the shower at Penn State in 2000. The campus police investigated Sandusky for a similar shower incident in 1998, but no charges were laid. A member of the coaching staff said he told his superiors that he saw Sandusky raping a boy in the shower in 2002. Nothing was done to stop Sandusky, besides requesting that he not shower with boys at Penn State anymore.
The complaint that sparked the grand jury probe wasn’t lodged until 2008. The mother of a high school football player whose team Sandusky was coaching began to suspect something was wrong when her son started asking questions about databases of “sex weirdos” and Sandusky demanded to discipline the boy. The boy eventually told his mother that Sandusky had been abusing him.
The Penn State sex abuse scandal has been called the biggest story in the history of college sports, but Ganim inists it is a crime story, not a football story. The sexual abuse of children by authority figures within powerful institutions is not unique to Penn State. Read my interview with Ganim in The Backstory.
[Photo credit: PSUPix. Caption: “Penn State football coach Joe Paterno accepts a crystal football from Athletic Director Tim Curley in a post-game celebration of Paterno’s 400th win.”]