Penn State Alumni Association New York City Chapter
June 1, 2016
The Cornell Club
Media vs Journalism/ and Loyalty
I want to start out by acknowledging a couple of people here. Trustees Barb Doran and Alice Pope are here—they are doing the difficult work that needs to be done for Penn State.
Mark Kavanaugh and Jon Taylor, friends from college are here and that is all I have to say about that. I thank God every day that we did not have social media.
There are a number of former players here—Yaacov Yisrael, John Gilmore, Bill Spoor and Patrick Flanagan who finished in 2012.
Our recruiting visit to John Gilmore’s school was one of my favorites. We took Joe Paterno to Wilson High School. John’s family are just great people. His coach Gerry Slemmer was an outstanding person and coach. Gerry had set up an elementary school pep rally for Joe Paterno and John…these little kids knew all the songs and cheers and Joe just loved it.
John and Tony Stewart were among the last guys I coached as Tight Ends Coach and they combined for 19 or 20 years in the NFL.
John is doing positive things in his hometown of Reading— impacting the people in that city and making their lives better. I follow John’s progress on social media. I see the work Michael Robinson is doing in his hometown. Bill Spoor and his wife have started an effort to educate young people in Uganda. I see many others doing the same and I realize the real value of Joe Paterno’s coaching and those lessons have gone global.
Michael Flanagan is here with his wife Megan. Michael is the President of Penn State’s Hoops Club—because his wife Megan is the older sister of Patrick Chambers. If you get back up to Penn State for football games you need to join the Hoops Club because they have the best tailgate at Beaver Stadium.
More importantly you need to catch the Penn State basketball bug. The influx of talent that Pat Chambers and his staff brought to Penn State will help them take the next step up. Most importantly--- they are doing things the right way on and off the court.
I have never been more excited about the Hoops season. They have a great non-conference schedule—for you in NYC they play Pitt in Newark on 12/10 and they play Duke on 11/19 at Mohegan Sun—a short trip for you. I love and respect Coach K but loyalty to my school and Pat Chambers comes first--- so I hope we make that a hostile environment for Duke.
New York is special to so many of us---My father spent days in the reading room at the New York Public Library and part of that design inspired the reading room in the Paterno Library. He grew up in Brooklyn loving the BROOKLYN Dodgers and hating the New York Yankees.
When the Dodgers left Brooklyn my father stopped paying attention to baseball. A friend asked him why he no longer rooted for the Dodgers and why he’d left them My father responded by saying “I didn’t leave the Dodgers, they left me.”
Joe Paterno was loyal to Brooklyn and to his family and to Penn State all his life.
Loyalty is a value that was a hallmark of Penn State. People came there and stayed there because they fell in love with and became loyal to the school our identity and our values. It wasn’t lip service yelling WE ARE from time to time and wearing the logo only because that school was the one writing the biggest check.
No one came trying to change what we as a school were all about.
It was loyalty to each other and to Penn State that drove coaches and players to push themselves physically and mentally past where they ever believed they could go. We sacrificed our health at times, we sacrificed weeks and years with our families. It was a love of and loyalty to doing the best we possibly could do for each other.
When we stood in the huddle holding hands united against our opponent there was a bond that will never be erased.
Those values are the same cornerstone of our devoted alumni base from our great university.
Networking is dependent on loyalty—ours has been challenged. Some want to divide us. Why is that?
We live in a world where we constantly bow to the tyranny of Social media outrage. Facts and due process are the victims of our brave new world.
A couple of weeks ago CBS journalist Scott Pelly spoke at Quinnipiac College in a Speech Called “Our House is on Fire”
The House he was talking about was Journalism.
Now keep in mind—and I cannot stress this enough—there is a difference between journalism and media.
LET ME REPEAT THAT--- there is a difference between journalism and media.
Media has become a commercial enterprise seeking financial returns for shareholders. Because its goal is not to seek the truth, perhaps it should not be fully protected by the First amendment. Its goal is simply to find the story, regardless of accuracy, that returns the most ratings or page views. Media has become a whore to our society’s worst impulses.
Journalism is another matter altogether. It is inspired but only one goal—THE TRUTH.
Today it’s a constant tug of war; Journalism vs Media, Trial by Judicial System vs Trial in the Court of Public Opinion…it is The Right to Due Process versus the Stampede of Don’t Process.
Due Process vs Don’t Process—it is the struggle of our times and we have reached a defining moment. It is what is RIGHT versus What is POPULAR.
Due Process is a deliberate careful study of facts. It willingly accepts evidence that runs counter to our biases. It takes time and it seeks only the truth for the truth’s sake and not for personal agendas.
In the United States, a reality TV---social media---HASHTAG LOOK AT ME obsessed nation with an impatient demand for the latest information we are becoming less informed and a country of Don’t Process.
Don’t Process is like heroin—cheap popular and highly addictive.
Don’t Process is an immediate knee jerk reaction to and acceptance of the most sensational accusations leveled against those we dislike.
Don’t Process is a personal agenda seeking to create our own sets of facts.
Don’t Process is opinion writers armed with keypads and smartphones handing out virtual pitchforks and torches to a social media mob demanding immediate reactions to every perceived injustice or slight.
Don’t Process never considers whether what you say or print is accurate or fair.
Don’t process presents inaccuracies or lies creating lasting fallout on the lives and reputations of real people and institutions.
The difference between “Due Process” and “Don’t Process” can best be described by two ideas. One journalist is asked what drives them and responds by talking about the truth. Another reporter, a Pulitzer Prize winning Penn State alumna responded by saying “moving the story forward”
Sarah Ganim did not say accuracy, or truth or fairness. Just “move the story forward”.
For-profit media must create a lucrative product factory assembly line of “content” for the unending 24/7 news cycle—so quality is compromised.
It’s sending out cars with faulty airbags. It’s Merck putting out Vioxx without regard to the people hurt or lives destroyed. It’s like Penn State’s Board of Trustees Legal Subcommittee led by Ira Lubert paying out over $90 million without fully vetting the claims against the school or putting anyone under oath.
Damage is done to lives, to reputations and it can never be completely undone. That is what Don’t Process does.
The dream of a nation of “Due Process” is why the founders of this country crossed dangerous oceans to an unknown future. They founded a society that would respect the rights of every individual to a presumption of innocence in the face of demands for vigilante retribution.
One of our nation’s founders John Adams successfully defended British Soldiers accused of wrongdoing in the Boston Massacre. For Adams the courage of his convictions and loyalty to due process drove him to what was right over what was popular.
Due Process became the cornerstone of a uniquely American life and existence.
We as Penn Staters ask for nothing more than Due Process and repeatedly get attacked. We know what our school has always been about. We know all too well that misrepresentations have taken root in many minds.
Just last week Law Professor and Penn State alum Marci Hamilton’s blog was reposted by the Huffington Post reporting allegations against Penn State and Joe Paterno as fact. Allegations mind you that have never been proven and in fact are known to be false.
Here was a Law School professor robbing our school, her alma mater and Joe Paterno of the presumption of innocence.
Worse still was that she presented her “objective” opinion piece without ever disclosing that she had represented two claimants against Penn State. That shows a complete lack of journalistic integrity and I know what you’re thinking—there is no such thing as journalistic integrity.
Again do not confuse media with journalism—journalism has a code of ethics that many journalists follow. I know a good number of them. As we do not wish to be blamed for the actions of others—we too should not blame all journalists for the careless actions of media-types.
But into the headwinds that resurfaced recently we wonder what can we do?
This is where our networking comes in. Over the past few years we have been bound to each other like never before--- to find strength in each other. Those who have traveled to football games on the road have heard comments. People have seen the jokes on social media.
Together we as Penn Staters have seen our school, our football program and Joe Paterno become a punchline for standup comedians and on Saturday Night Live. We’ve seen administrators repeatedly give in to the “optics” or political correctness.
There are some who advocate that we just move forward. Let it Go.
Believe me I eagerly look to the day when this is in my rearview mirror and I can go back to coaching without the cloud and the specter of litigation and inaccurate news cycles that can pop up any day.
This battle is like the war on terror in that the attacks on the truth are asymmetrical and can pop up without warning. There seems to be no end in sight.
Just this past week how many Penn State references have we seen in the recent run of Baylor stories?
The time to give up defense of our school is not yet at hand. To avoid bad optics the administrators chose to make payouts to claimants—rather than to seek truth without regard to expediency or convenience. The leaders of the administration—men like President Rodney Erickson and Trustee Ira Lubert promised the claims would be covered by insurance.
They argued that it would be cheaper…they reduced the value of Penn State’s reputation to an entry on an accounting ledger and they vastly underestimated the price paid over decades to earn that reputation.
Years later when they lost the insurance case it was convenient to change the subject and the blame. A media narrative was advanced alleging people in the football program had known, assistant coaches had witnessed things, Joe Paterno had been told by victims.
The stories were pure Media and no journalism; no credible on the record source and no truth. In fact Dr Barron stated that some “stories are clearly incredulous and should be difficult for any reasonable person to believe.”
I get it--the 2011 and 2012 administration was worried about optics. But when optics and political correctness run counter to the facts we have an obligation to fight the tyranny of manufactured social media outrage.
That is where we all come in. As Penn Staters our loyalty to each other and our University are needed now more than ever. We’re closing in on the truth, so those with a vested interest in the current false narratives will engage in all-out war to win.
Those who want their sinister fiction about Penn State, Penn State Football and Joe Paterno to win hurt all of us.
Don’t believe me?
A friend with a successful career spanning three decades who has served on Boards of Billion-dollar corporations was being interviewed in the last year. When the interviewer saw Penn State on her resume the conversation immediately turned to all the things that had been alleged against our school. In an interview she found herself defending her school.
Her story is not unique.
We all have a role in this fight and a stake in the outcome. Penn State is THON, it is Success With Honor that was never compromised, it is a set of shared values and a commitment to serve others.
Penn Staters have been an example to others for generations. No false narrative can ever completely eclipse our light. But it takes work to get it done.
That is why we fight. We fight for all so that our network and your Penn State degree is recognized for our hard-won reputation of Honor, Integrity and Academic Excellence.
That will only happen when we drag the world into the light of the truth.
I know it has been a long time. The work is long and our hearts get weary of the fight. But the alternative is to turn our backs on our Alma Mater and allow others to define us and our school.
For many years it was all so easy. Penn State was Happy Valley—a place unto itself, a utopia surrounded by hills on every visible horizon. Those hills always seemed to be able to hold the rest of the world out.
But that changed. One professor stated that he felt the night Joe Paterno was fired and the students took to the streets that Happy Valley lost our innocence.
In February of 2012 The New York Hope Gala was the first event I came to after my father died. When I arrived at the event my heart was heavy. But your loyalty moved and inspired me. My family still treasures the book of remembrances you gave me that night.
The next morning I drove to St Edmund’s Parish in Sheepshead Bay where my father went to elementary school. That morning’s reading came from the book of Job. Job had a prosperous life, a loving healthy family and great faith in God. But he is tested when it is all taken away and it is an example of faith and loyalty through adversity and hardship.
Part of that morning’s reading stated:
“So I have been assigned months of misery,
and troubled nights have been allotted to me.
If in bed I say, "When shall I arise?"
then the night drags on;
I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.”
Now over 52 months later and countless troubled nights later I am still filled with restlessness. We as a community of Penn Staters should be filled with restlessness. We can no longer wait for the dawn. We must hasten the sun’s ascent.
Each of us by our actions, by the way we live our lives as examples to others help remind others what Penn State has always been about.
For Penn Staters we need to network for each other. Our networks will help us all in our careers, in our lives and in this fight--As long as we remain true to our values.
So THIS IS WHY WE FIGHT ON.
There is a drama--- epic poetry that is written when strong proud people build something magnificent from humble beginnings that comes at a tremendous cost to their bodies and souls and asking others in their lives to sacrifice.
It is a poetry that only those who witnessed it or study that history can ever hope to understand.
Yet that history for Penn State now is ignored and even ridiculed by those who will never know the joy of building from nothing, who will never understand the price that was paid.
So We fight for the truth.
The next great chapter in our history will be how we responded. It will be our restlessness in the dark, a restlessness that drove us to bring the truth to light.
When that light prevails we will all benefit. Our endeavor to champion due process while the world told us to go away, to believe while the world told us to doubt, to sail into a tempest wind to truth’s distant shore will make our University an example of persistence and honor once again for the world to see.
George Washington once said “Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light.”
We will ultimately prevail because what we have always been, what we will be and what We Are…Penn Staters.