I live about 90 minutes from “Happy Valley,” and so, more than most of the country we have been inundated with the Penn State story. It is difficult to find news in the local paper that doesn’t deal with Sandusky. I am not a football fan. I never have claimed to understand the whole Penn State football thing, but I am aware of it, and subsequently appreciate the power that Paterno had at Penn State and the firestorm against him that followed the revelation of the abuse accusations. I also fear greatly, given the fact that Sandusky founded a children’s charity, that despite the large number of charges, we will see many more in the future. My heart goes out to the victims and their families. During the implosion at Penn State last month a lot of the noise was about Paterno and very little of it was about the victims. Hopefully things will refocus appropriately now that the trial is about to get underway.
Social Media and Reporting
I’d like to focus on the issue I normally address, social media. Social media has played a huge role in the sharing of information about Sandusky, Paterno and Penn State. I myself used Facebook to inform those outside of the area what was going on as it happened, before the national news got as involved as it is now. People were interested when I informed them about the rioting, discussed the breaking news long before the national press shared it, and generally kept them up to date on what was happening. Social media helped keep people informed on what was going on much faster than did the national news.
The abuse was trending on Twitter and Facebook for quite some time when the scandal broke, and one expects, with today’s hearing will begin to trend again.
The Judge running today’s hearing has made an interesting decision in relation to social media; he will allow tweeting, texting and email use during the hearing. He has made it clear that only credentialed reporters may engage in this use of technology. This is not the first Pennsylvania hearing during which reporters have been allowed to text or tweet, there have been very high profile cases in which judges have allowed such activities. But despite the high profile nature of some of the other hearings and trials, none come close to the Sandusky case. It will be interesting to see how the reporters use the technology. By using social media and other methods of immediate communication, the reporters will be able to keep the public informed about the breaking news much more rapidly than would be otherwise possible.
It will also be interesting to see if any of the audience violates the order of the judge about keeping off technology from the court room, and if the order is violated how the Judge will handle it.
The Reach of Social Media
A very interesting and silver lining aspect of the Sandusky case and its vast . news and social media coverage, is that it has encouraged victims of past child abuse to step forward. I read that there has been a substantial increase in the number of people reporting child abuse, and also, that now adult victims have stepped forward to share their own stories. This catharsis will hopefully enable more young people to feel comfortable stepping forward, as they realize the are, unfortunately, far from the only victims of this kind of horrific abuse.
Update – Hearing Waived
Sandusky waived his hearing, a piece of information I learned pretty quickly on Facebook. Aside from the fact that people are commenting a lot on what it means that he waived his hearing (it really doesn’t mean much of anything) I am now left to wonder whether there will simply be a plea bargain (best for the victims that is for sure) or if there is a trial, whether the Judge will allow the same social media use.
Yes, it is odd that, if the defense is planning on going to trial it waived the hearing. But that goes well beyond the purpose of this particular blog post.