Saturday, September 15, 2012

Joe Posnanski talks about "Paterno" at Penn State

All Joe Posnanskiwanted to do was to “follow the truth.”

Posnanski’s book Paterno debuted at No. 1 on The New York Times bestsellers list upon its release. On Friday afternoon, he spoke at Penn State about the biography, Joe Paterno, writing and the challenges he faced in the process. 

After the Jerry Sandusky scandal became widely covered by the national media in November, Posnanski's job became difficult as his interviews got canceled or postponed. What he tried to focus on at the time was to write the best book he could. “It was not going to be about the scandal,” Posnanski said. “It was going to be about his life.”

Responding to a question from an audience member, Posnanski was quick to acknowledge some of the quality reporting on the scandal, but he observed that the media narrative seemed to be going one way.

“I fear it’s because it’s very very difficult in today’s media world to fight against the tide and I think it used to be different,” Posnanski said.

He also said that under the time pressures, it is hard for journalists to be nuanced. Because it’s a complicated story, he wanted to include the “inconvenient facts” in his book that might not have made it into the media coverage.
Posnanski expressed his frustration with journalists who called the Freeh Report “exhaustive” considering that the “key members” were not interviewed.

“It’s like writing an ‘exhaustive’ book on the Beatles without talking to the Beatles,” Posnanski said.

However, he does not consider his book to be in conflict with the report because he said he did not make conclusions. 
Posnanski, an award-winning sports journalist began working on his book in November 2010, when after a year of “absolutely nots,” Paterno’s family called him and told him that Paterno would agree to have the book written about him. Posnanski moved to State College and began interviewing people who knew Paterno.

Based on his travels promoting the book, Posnanski feels that the conversation is changing and people are starting to ask questions.

“Time does change the dynamics very significantly,” Posnanski said. “Emotion will be taken out of it as well.”

One of the most common questions people ask him is to make a prediction on what the story will be like in a year or a few years.

“I don’t know,” Posnanski said. “If I did, I would bet on Super Bowls. But I do believe that time is going to play its part of the story.”

The John Curley Center for Sports Journalism organized the talk as a part of the “Conversation Series,” which has previously attracted visitors such as Mike Breen, Bob Costas and Jim O’Connell. The “conversation” was hosted by Malcolm Moran, Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society and Director of the Curley Center.

To see the video of the full conversation, visit Curley Center’s website. To see Twitter updates from the talk, visit @CurleyCenter.

The next Curley Center event will be a panel discussion titled “The Future of the NCAA and Its Membership” on Wednesday Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. at the State Theatre.  For more information, see this news release and look for updates on Twitter.

-- Dunja Antunovic

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