November 12, 2011

Like many others, I have been following the ongoing media coverage of the Penn State sexual abuse scandal. My response to the news coverage is a mixture of horror and disgust for what those boys endured, and critique-turned-annoyance at the way the networks have handled this.

For the first few days, it was all about Joe Paterno and football. As I write this,a report is airing about “Penn State Nation” — today’s game and  how the alumni and students showed up to support the blue and white. A brief mention about the victims before the talk turns back to Joe. They’re missing the point.

It took until about halfway through tonight’s broadcast before  there was finally some substantial discussion on this issue — a report on various state laws on mandatory reporting. I don’t think some of these media outlets get it.

It’s not about football. It’s not about a university. What really matters is talking about the horrors of child abuse – sexual and otherwise — educating parents about signs to watch for, how to talk to your children, what to do if you have suspicions, and policy changes that must be put in place to force mandatory reporting to police by any adult — not just teachers, or medical professionals, or coaches. What really matters is making adults understand that keeping quiet is never an option.

Sexual abuse victims face a lifetime of psychological trauma. Their families suffer. Society suffers. Joe Paterno has to live with his decision — apparently he followed the letter of the law, but not his ethical obligation to protect children instead of protecting a football program.

Too many members of the media are busy glorifying the coach, talking about the game, and the fans. How about changing the discussion to what really matters?