Production Editor Ron Kirkwood recalls the responses the newspaper received after first reporting the sex scandal involving former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky.
“We got two types of responses: apathy and anger,” he said. “No one believed it.”
Kirkwood, a 1977 graduate of CMU, came to Moore Hall as part of the Hearst Visiting Professionals series in October. He explained how The Patriot-News, located in Harrisburg, Pa., first broke the Sandusky story.
In January 2011, Sara Ganim was hired as a crime reporter and was put on the Sandusky story. The story about the grand jury probe was published in March 2011, but Sandusky wasn’t indicted until November 2011.
Kirkwood said The Patriot-News was the only medium covering the story before the indictment, but the rest of the media started following it after that.
“I guess they didn’t trust us,” he said. “Once the charges were filed, then they trusted us.”
He said he loved watching ESPN after that and seeing the ticker at the bottom of the screen say, “The Patriot-News reports …” about the Sandusky story.
Kirkwood said social media works sometimes, but knocking on doors and chasing down leads is what worked for Ganim.
“Twitter is great for disseminating information, but not gathering it,” he said.
In Ronald Marmarelli’s JRN 315 class, one student asked how confident The Patroit-News was when it first broke the story.
“When we put it in press, we were 99.99 percent sure,” Kirkwood said. “You have to be very careful and verify everything.”
In April 2012, The Patriot-News won the Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting “for courageously revealing and adeptly covering” the Sandusky story.
“We were on high for a while, and it was an exhausted high,” Kirkwood said. “It was a real draining time. There was so much hard work involved.”
Kirkwood managed the universal copy desk throughout the coverage. The copy editors were responsible for editing and fact-checking the stories, writing headlines and designing the pages.
“We had to make sure we weren’t libeling someone,” he said.
He said the copy desk has to be good at everything, especially since some reporters aren’t good with sentence structure.
“I love to tighten up stories and take out words you don’t need,” Kirkwood said.
He worked for CM Life when he attended CMU, covering men’s basketball, and as an assistant sports editor and sports editor. His best memory of Moore Hall, however, is meeting his wife in the first class he had there.