On November 4, Penn State’s independent student newspaper, The Daily Collegian, reported that Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant football coach, had been indicted on several sexual abuse charges.
This knowledge not only shocked the school but also the nation. As a prominent university, Penn State was thrust into the spotlight with this discovery.
However, throughout this turmoil, The Daily Collegian continued to report what was happening by covering student, staff and alumni responses, and printing letters to the editor that ranged from outraged to supportive. The Collegian’s website also has a very helpful “Timeline of Key Events” in the Penn State scandal.
The staff’s editorial on Nov. 7 expressed disappointment in the way the situation was handled by the administration, but the reports on page 1 told the story in an unbiased fashion as one could expect a good news department to do.
Both the good and the bad were included in The Collegian’s coverage. The independent student press’s Twitter account covered both the Penn State Candlelight Vigil on Nov. 11 as well as the student riots on the night of Nov.9.
The unbiased coverage of events is important in any situation; however, it is crucial when dealing with sensitive issues such as have occurred at Penn State over the past month. Though not the case at Penn State, many college and university newspapers are often put in the sensitive situation of being dependent upon their educational institution for their funding.
Furthermore, they are often expected, as a result of receiving university funding, to present the college in only the best light. For students to truly learn to do good journalism, university administrations must give campus newspapers the freedom to report on all matters involving the campus, no matter how they may reflect on the institution.
The student journalists at Penn State surely got an education this past month–one they could never get in any classroom–as they worked tirelessly to cover these events that transpired after the news of the sex abuse broke. On every campus, the university press provides unique learning opportunities for students that force students to think not in the hypothetical, but in the very, very real. All universities that truly strive to provide good education to their students should allow and support a free campus press.
The Wood Word holds itself to the highest ethical standards and commends The Daily Collegian for its coverage of these difficult events.