UNIVERSITY PARK Six months after graduating in 2008 from Penn States College of Communications, Sara Ganim got her first tip that Jerry Sandusky could be a child molester.
She had become obsessed with creating a source base around Centre County as the crime reporter at the Centre Daily Times, she said on Tuesday night at the Foster-Foreman Conference of Distinguished Writers.
Her source bases, extensive interviewing and being the first to break the Sandusky story, led her to winning the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting on the Sandusky sex abuse case.
To extend conversations with sources, she would always ask, Tell me what else is going on, tell me what else I should know.
This got a source to tell her, in a late night conversation, that Jerry Sandusky had been accused of molesting boys at his house.
Not knowing who Sandusky was, Ganim went straight to Google to see if this tip was correct. The first thing that came up was The Second Mile, she said.
Six weeks later, her source retracted the statement.
However, Ganim did not stop there. In August 2009, she attended The Second Mile golf tournament for a story. Jerry Sandusky was not in attendance for his charitys own event.
He was not there because he was under investigation and the charity decided he should not attend. The charity, however, did not decide how to proceed with questions as to his whereabouts, Ganim said.
I got two different answers (as to why he was not there) and that was a signal to me, Ganim said.
That was when she knew there was more to the story.
Ganim is the third youngest person to win the Pulitzer Prize and second in Penn States College of Communications history.
Since breaking the story in March 2011, Ganim has received criticism on both sides of the spectrum. You killed your university, or you were too easy, are comments that Ganim is used to hearing.
Ganim never thought of the story as it pertained to Penn State. Ever since her days at The Daily Collegian, she has been used to covering the good and bad of Penn State. It never really crossed my mind how it related, she said.
The biggest part of the story is the crime, Ganim said.
She was focused on being an investigative journalist and getting a factual and important story out.
For 18 months, she was the only journalist in the world working on the story. Tuesday, as Jerry Sandusky was sentenced for 30 to 60 years in prison, there were more than 230 registered reporters in Bellefonte, according to Ganim.
I dont think anyone could have guessed the magnitude of the story, Ganim said. I dont have that kind of crystal ball.
Ganim attested her natural ability to compartmentalize helped her write the Sandusky story. You have to set aside emotions, but you are human, she said.
You are going to feel, but you have to know when to compartmentalize your feelings, Ganim said.
In response to criticism about writing a history-altering story about her alma mater, Ganim said she has one response.
Penn State taught me to be a good journalist and this is me showing you what a good education I got, Ganim said. I love the craft of journalism and that is my first priority.
Megan Keller Flood is a Penn State journalism student.