This morning I picked up our local newspaper (yes, the old-fashioned kind on paper that gets ink on your fingers and can be ruined by a rain shower) at the end of the driveway. I used to read it first thing in the morning, but that was before the internet. I still look at the paper most days, but often there’s just more fresh, colorful stuff to be found online. Not to mention checking email, stats and Facebook.
On page two I saw a headline that says, “24-Year-Old Who Broke Penn State Story Wins Pulitzer.” Sara Ganim worked at the Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania as a police and courts reporter. She was cited by the Pulitzer judges for, “courageously revealing and adeptly covering the explosive Penn State scandal” involving coach Jerry Sandusky’s alleged child molestation.
As a former journalism major who started out wanting to be a scrappy girl reporter, I give Sara Ganim a standing ovation, fist pump and a big old Facebook “Like.” To see that a reporter who works at a “real” local newspaper could break a big story like the Jerry Sandusky molestation case and apparent cover-up, practically brings a tear to my eye.
I don’t know anything about Sara Gamin except what I read in that single article. I have not Googled her, or tried to find out any extra scoops. But I’m guessing that when she was hired at the Patriot-News in Harrisburg, she might have wondered if this position in courts and police reporting would be a snooze-fest, with nothing interesting to report week after week after week. I very much doubt that she could have predicted her role in a huge scandal that could bring some much-needed soul searching in the collegiate football world, and eventually a form of healing and closure to the victims.
Since I was a kid, I got a kick out of the old movies featuring smoky newsrooms and snappy banter between reporters. I was in junior high when my parents followed the developments in the Watergate scandal, and Woodward and Bernstein became celebrities. As a teenager, I was inspired by a character on the Lou Grant TV show that came after The Mary Tyler Moore Show had ended (anyone remember the redheaded Billie?).
So many people have given up daily newspaper delivery and don’t even keep a home phone line any more. In the faster, more glamorous digital world, it’s somehow gratifying to see that a real reporter on a real newspaper can still make an enormous impact on revealing disturbing truths that have been swept under the rug by a system of denial and more denial.
I often hear that young college grads don’t want to pay their dues any more. They expect to do great things right out of college, and see no need to stick around in a less-than exciting job that might not lead to anything. It appears to me that Sara Ganim has managed to do great things while paying her dues. She’s my new role model.