Jennifer D. Wade Journal

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Blog posts November 2011

First off, let me say that I am not a graduate of Penn State University. However, that doesn't mean that I'm not aware of what "Penn State" means.

I grew up in eastern Pennsylvania and have rooted for Penn State football since as far back as I can remember. When the Nittany Lions won the national championship in 1982, I think I received a commemorative mug and T-shirt as Christmas presents. Once, when I went to softball camp there during high school, I was on the same indoor practice field where Joe Paterno was leading the Nittany Lions through practice. For a time, I considered going to college at Penn State. In my professional career, I've always worked at television stations that provided a lot of coverage to Penn State football. And, recently, I've been a guest speaker for some journalism classes at the main campus.

So, even though I'm not a Penn State graduate, I've always been aware of the university and what it - and the football program, the school's crown jewel - stand for: class, pride, and a reputation beyond reproach.

Those qualities are just some of the reasons why the scandal that has exploded in the wake of the child sex abuse charges against former PSU defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is so shocking. Every single element of this story is horrible. For a university with, basically, a lily-white reputation, this is as black as it can get.

The GRAND JURY PRESENTMENT is simply awful to read. The allegations against Sandusky are terrible in their own right. Just as awful, however, is the inaction of people who were in a position to act in a way that perhaps could have prevented some of these crimes from happening. The saying is that the cover up is worse than the crime. In this case, however, they are both absolutely horrible.

In the days since the scandal broke, many questions have been asked. Why didn't anyone call the authorities? Should the university have fired Joe Paterno? There are other questions, and there will be more, but these seem to be the main ones. How could so many people in authority have had at least some inkling that something wrong was happening and have responded by doing little more than nothing?

These questions are why the university's Board of Trustees had no choice but to fire Joe Paterno (of course, they handled it all wrong, but that's a separate issue). Any number of people could have - and should have - notified the authorities about the suspected child sexual abuse by Sandusky. But, Paterno is the one who definitely needed to do it. He notified folks up the chain at the university. But, when they did nothing of consequence, Paterno apparently let the matter drop. It doesn't seem as though he followed up at all. Paterno may have fulfilled his legal responsibility, but he failed in his moral responsibility.

Penn State is a university known around the world for its football program. Joe Paterno is the face of that program and, therefore, the face of the university. In his time as head coach, Penn State never had an NCAA violation. He coached players who then sent their sons and grandsons to play for him. But, when it came time to speak up against one of his coaches, to speak up for the alleged victims, he failed. Joe Paterno is Penn State. And, he failed to live up to the values that he and the school represent. And, that why Joe had to go.

I'll conclude by saying that, even though Paterno and president Graham Spanier are gone, and two other PSU officials face charges, I don't believe for one minute that this scandal is anywhere close to being over. The Penn State community may have tried to start healing, but I think there are still more band-aids to be ripped off.

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Catching Up

When last we spoke, the Phillies were finished, the Eagles were terrible and the Flyers were off to a good start. One month later, the team that sent the Phillies packing is the World Series champion, the Eagles are still terrible (witness today's come from ahead loss) and the Flyers aren't as good as those first three games led me to believe. I think pitchers and catchers report in about three months, so I'm looking forward to that.

A lot of other stuff has happened, too.

Election night came and went on November 8th. We reported results from 145 races around the viewing area and around the state. Our live efforts were focused on Luzerne and Lackawanna counties as there weren't that many contested races of note outside the metro. Of the races we highlighted, the most interesting one proved to be the race for District Attorney in Luzerne County. It went down to the wire, but upstart Republican newcomer Stefanie Salavantis scored a narrow victory over incumbent Democrat Jackie Musto Carroll. Salavantis won despite the fact that she's not quite 30 years old and despite the fact that she has never come close to prosecuting a case. Salavantis had money behind her (I received at least two fliers which were paid for the the state GOP) and I think Musto Carroll was hurt by the so-called "Kids for Cash" scandal that has left many voters feeling the need to clean house at the courthouse. The Salavantis campaign took full advantage of this sentiment.

The repercussions of the outcome in the DA's race are already being felt. Notorious murder suspect Hugo Selenski was FINALLY scheduled to go on trial the week after the election (which would be this week) for the murders of a pharmacist and his girlfriend. They disappeared in, I think, 2000, and their remains were among those found in Selenski's backyard in 2003. Musto Carroll planned to prosecute the case herself and Selenski planned to act as his own attorney. But, the day after the Salavantis victory, Selenski asked for a delay so he could hire an attorney to represent him. Now the trial is delayed until sometime next year - at the earliest.

Another race of note took place in Northumberland County, where the three commissioners (two Democrats and a Republican) were on the ballot. Also running were a second Republican and an Independent. What made this race interesting is that the two Democrats do not get along and their battles have been well publicized. Consequently, they did not run as a team. Neither did the two GOP candidates. In this race, it was every man for himself. In the end, one of the incumbent Democrats won re-election, the Republican newcomer won a seat, and the Independent candidate also won a seat. It's the first time in the county (and maybe in the state) that there are no majority commissioners. It will be interesting to see if the configuration can restore civility and be effective.

Friday night, I went to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra with my mother and sister. My sister has seen them several times before, but it was a first for my mother and me. I think my mother got it right when she summed up the performance by saying that the technical aspects of the show - and there were many - were better than the music.

Of course, the election and just about everything else that happened this past week or so has been overshadowed by the child sex abuse scandal surrounding Penn State University and its former football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. It's so big and so far-reaching that it deserves a separate post. So, that's what I'll give it.

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