Anyone who has been tuned into ESPN recently knows that Joe Paterno, “JoePa”, was the football coach at Penn State for 42 years, starting in 1966. In the wake of a child abuse scandal centered around Jerry Sandusky, Penn State’s former assistant coach, Paterno was fired this past November. He was the face of Penn State and his brand was ultimately tarnished due to the scandal. Some are concerned that his tainted brand will overshadow his lifelong legacy. Sadly, Joe Paterno passed away on January 22nd due to his battle with lung cancer making it impossible to mend his stained brand.
The media has been criticized for how they handled the situation regarding Joe Paterno; some even question if the media’s involvement aided in tarnishing his brand. The question is not whether the media has a legal right to report whatever they find newsworthy because the First Amendment guarantees that they do. The issue is how media managers should employ that freedom in their own decisions about what is ethical and professionally responsible. Some may view that the media took their interrogations too far by harassing Paterno at his home and accusing him of allegations before they even knew the whole story.
“The media jumped to the conclusion that Paterno was trying to cover up the scandal when it broke out. Because his name is so iconic, linking his name to the scandal would attract more viewers on their websites as opposed to Sandusky… more has been written about Joe Paterno’s involvement than Sandusky in the media.” – Chris Moore, Penn State University Senior
Is it ethical for the media to do whatever it takes to get the story out first even if it damages a man’s reputation beyond repair? On another note, people have a right to know what is going on in today’s world, so is doing whatever it takes to get the news as bad as it seems? Some argue that the media is just doing their job and presenting breaking news to the public. It was already too late for his reputation when the news came out that Paterno had told superiors about the issue in 2002. According to the Penn State Board of Trustees, their reasoning for terminating Paterno was partially based on his failing to uphold a moral responsibility to report allegations made in 2002 against Sandusky to authorities outside the university.
There is no question that Paterno let the victims, their families, and the university down by not pressing the issue with the police after he approached his superiors. In our opinion, Joe Paterno deserves to be remembered for who he was as a coach and as an individual; not as a man who was in over his head dealing with the worst scandal in his university’s history.
Kelsey Bendig, Brian Burch, Brooke Keller, Andrea Blanton