HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Reporter Sara Ganim and members of The Patriot-News of Harrisburg staff won a Pulitzer Prize for local reporting Monday for its coverage of a child sex-abuse scandal at Penn State University that led to criminal charges against two administrators and toppled legendary football coach Joe Paterno.
The announcement said the newspaper received the prize “for courageously revealing and adeptly covering the explosive Penn State sex scandal involving former football coach Jerry Sandusky.”
The newspaper broke news that a grand jury was investigating Sandusky with a front-page story in March, and was the first to report in November that prosecutors were filing child sexual-abuse charges against the former Penn State assistant football coach.
Those scoops were followed by a series of reports regarding the allegations, including stories about the alleged victims and how the matter was handled by Penn State administrators and officials with The Second Mile, a charity founded by Sandusky.
The paper’s coverage was led by Ganim, 24, a police and courts reporter who had graduated from Penn State and then worked at the Centre Daily Times before joining the Patriot-News in January 2011.
According to the paper, Ganim tracked down rumors about Sandusky until she located an alleged victim, then learned there had been an investigation into a previous incident.
Through the end of December, the Patriot-News had written 109 stories for its print edition and posted 587 news items and videos about the scandal on its website.
The newspaper’s coverage had previously earned several other prominent journalism prizes, including a public service journalism award from the Society of Professional Journalists, a distinguished writing award for local accountability journalism from the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the George Polk Award for sports reporting and the Scripps Howard award for community journalism.
The paper’s circulation is 67,000 weekdays, 117,000 Sundays.
Sandusky, 68, is confined to his home while awaiting a June trial on 52 criminal counts, allegations he has repeatedly denied.
Also facing trial are Penn State administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, charged with lying to the grand jury investigating Sandusky and failing to properly report suspected child abuse. Curley, the school’s athletic director, is on leave, and Schultz has retired as vice president for business and finance.
The scandal toppled Hall of Fame coach Paterno, who received a report from a graduate assistant in 2002 regarding Sandusky in a team shower with a naked child. Paterno passed on the report to Curley and Schultz, but he later said that in hindsight, he wished he had done more. Paterno was fired by the board of trustees before the end of the football season and died in January of lung cancer.
The Sandusky scandal also led to the departure of university president Graham Spanier, who remains a faculty member.
The Pulitzers are awarded annually by Columbia University on the recommendation of a board of journalists, academics and others. Except for the public service award, which is a gold medal, each award carries a $10,000 prize.
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