Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Psu Alumni Magazine Tackles Child Sex Scandal

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Psu Alumni Magazine Tackles Child Sex Scandal

Article excerpt

Penn State University's alumni magazine, showing up in nearly 130,000 mailboxes this month, has dedicated its latest issue to the Jerry Sandusky scandal, from a funereal all-black cover lamenting "our darkest days" to several photo montages to 38 pages examining the most traumatic event in school history.

For the glossy bimonthly magazine, it became increasingly clear as events unfolded that tackling the arrest of the high-profile former assistant football coach on charges that he molested boys would require devoting an entire edition to the ugly situation.

"It was just too big not to cover thoroughly," Tina Hay, editor of The Penn Stater and a 1983 university graduate, said Monday.

Influencing that decision was the fact that the fallout from the scandal far exceeded Mr. Sandusky's alleged crimes. It encompassed claims that other administrators knew about the sexual assault allegations but failed to report them, national media attention, the toppling of former Penn State president Graham Spanier and the ouster of legendary football head coach Joe Paterno.

While some university publications tend to act as boosters, Ms. Hay took pride in producing an issue that she felt honestly covered a divisive, controversial and incendiary topic.

"This is a big issue in our field. Editors talk about this all the time: wanting to be able to report candidly about what's taking place on their campuses. And some alumni magazines are more capable of doing this than others. There are some courageous alumni magazines out there and others that wouldn't touch this with a 10- foot-pole."

Ms. Hay considers The Penn Stater to be in the former category. She acknowledges that the magazine is not totally independent; it is published by an alumni association that reports, in part, to the university.

But no content was censored other than a single essay that the administration said had factual problems, and no one, as Ms. Hay said, "interfered."

"Penn State felt comfortable taking this issue on headfirst because we have a great deal of confidence in the institution and its future," said Rodney P. Kirsch, senior vice president of development and alumni relations, who ultimately oversees the magazine.

When news of Mr. Sandusky's arrest broke Nov. 5, editors were tinkering with the idea of a cover story on great concert memories at Penn State. That quickly changed.

Ms. Hay and her staff of seven hammered out a plan to create an issue that was "thoughtful," "reflective" and "even-handed." While lacking a newspaper's hard edge, the magazine confronts the scandal and tries to remain pertinent despite not having the latest twist and turn in the saga.

Staffers solicited "mini-essays" from alumni and faculty members, eliminated most regular features and broke down the issue into five sections that covered topics such as "Understanding Child Sexual Abuse" and "What Joe Paterno Leaves Behind. …

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