Sara Ganim is no stranger to Penn State. She’s been in our seats. She’s graduated from this university. And she knows what it’s like to be a Penn Stater.
Ganim, Class of 2008, was also the first person to break the story of the investigation of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
Last night, the Pulitzer Prize winner came back to the university where she fell in love with journalism and spent three years getting her undergraduate degree to speak to Penn State students about her recent experience breaking one of the biggest news stories of the year.
Ganim is one of two speakers to talk at the 27th Foster-Foreman Conference of Distinguished Writers. National Public Radio broadcast journalist David Greene will speak today at 10:10 a.m. in the HUB-Robeson Center Auditorium.
College of Communications Dean Doug Anderson introduced Ganim to a crowded Heritage Hall in the HUB as one of two Penn State graduates who have received a Pulitzer award before the age of 30.
Ganim, a former Collegian staff member, said she received her first tip that Sandusky was being investigated for allegedly molesting boys in the basement of his house while she was a young journalism professional working the cops and court beat at the Centre Daily Times.
Sandusky was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison Tuesday, and was found guilty on 45 counts of sexual child abuse in June.
A few months later, Ganim said she covered a charity event at the Second Mile, in which Sandusky was not present, and had found out that the charity was aware he was under investigation. From there, Ganim became the only reporter in the country to be working and investigating this story until the story broke in March 2011.
As questions peaked from the audience, asking on Ganim’s experience of covering a story that centers around the place she called home for three years, she answered with her top five things she’s learned as a journalist in her five years of reporting.
“It really matters who you work for,” Ganim said, talking about her time at the Patriot-News.
And while she has received much criticism for her work on her former university, Ganim said all of her work reflects back on her time in the college of communications.
When she came to the Patriot-News from the Centre Daily Times, they gave her the opportunity to work on the lead she had gotten about Sandusky. At any other national news source, which she had been given job offers for, she said the opportunity would have been given to seasoned professional.
Social media has also played a huge role in her reporting, she said, especially over the past few years.
“The key is to treat [Twitter] like a newspaper,” Ganim said. “People hold you accountable for [your tweets].”
Ganim also said that as a reporter, she learned that people are motivated to “perpetuate a lie.” But journalists should always keep in mind to move the story forward and look beyond what people directly tell you.
The only time it is acceptable to lie, she said, is when you work off the clock to get a story.
“It’s not a 9-to-5 job,” she said, adding students and professionals must absolutely love what they are doing to do it well.
“You have to have been bitten by the bug.”