A 22-Year-Old Crime Journalist Broke The Sandusky Story Months Before Anyone Cared
In 2009, 22-year-old Sara Ganim was living and working in the small town of State College -- a name it got just for being within driving distance of Penn State University. Penn State and its legendary football team were part of everyday life for her, like the Amish or hating New Jersey. But that didn't stop her from burning the whole legacy to the ground.
She refrained, however, from burning the physical university to the ground.
While she was covering the local crime beat, which must have involved a lot of stolen beer kegs and date rape, a source of Ganim's started to gossip about some crazy kid going to the cops throwing a bunch of allegations at Penn State's retired assistant coach and local hero, Jerry Sandusky. Ganim smelled a story and headed the one place where unsubstantiated rumors are as good as facts: online message boards. Dusting off her old Penn State login, Ganim started poking the student body about hearsay concerning Sandusky being inappropriate with young boys. There was a lot of it. Eventually, she had not only found a bunch of his victims, but had also discovered that Sandusky was under a secret grand jury investigation for sexual abuse. That's the kind of thing that can win you a Pulitzer in the big city, but in a small college football town, all it got Ganim was a lot of dirty looks.
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Not Sandusky-dirty. The other kind of dirty.
When Ganim and her paper, The Patriot-News, started reporting on the case, she was met with a whole lot of nothing. Bigger papers ignored her, while the locals treated her and the paper like it was toxic for publishing mere "rumors" about their beloved Sandusky. But Ganim would not stop writing stories about the entire rotten scale of the scandal. Only months later, when Sandusky was arrested, did the media catch up and start covering the trial. But that wasn't enough for Ganim. With the country now focused on Sandusky, she went after everyone involved in the cover-up -- which was just about everyone. And she got results. Less than a day after The Patriot-News called for their resignation, the university fired its president, Graham Spanier, and head coach Joe Paterno.
And "Penn State" is now the name for a particularly unsavory sex act.