Wednesday, July 13

WaPo Chooses Sensationalism Over Facts

The Washington Post's front page story today about the allegations made in claimant settlement depositions is another example of the media choosing to sensationalize a story by ignoring the facts

Ray Blehar

Since November 4, 2011, the media coverage of the Sandusky case has ignored the facts in order to provide sensational stories that defy common sense and logic.  Unfortunately, the media knows that the American public is willing to accept almost any story that tears down an icon or an institution.  

Examples include the Duke Lacrosse team, the University of Virginia Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, and the ongoing case of Penn State and Joe Paterno.   The two former cases made headlines and spawned many articles before the media figured out they were false.  

Giving the media the benefit of the doubt, it simply has no desire to consider the facts -- and routinely ignores them -- in Penn State's and Paterno's case.  The evidence of that is overwhelming and could be the subject of a novel, therefore, today's front page story in the WaPo will serve as a brief example.

The following is an annotated reproduction of the front page story.

The left hand column provides the errors/issues with the story and the right column adds information that would make the story more accurate.

Most people won't read past the front page, however, if they did they would have found more of the same shoddy work with a little bit of innuendo thrown in.  

If the readers made it to the very last paragraph, they would have learned that all of the allegations are unproven and uncorroborated.

However, as biased as this story was, how do Will Hobson and Cindy Boren explain the facts they ignored in the first few paragraphs of the story?

First, Hobson and Boren ignored the relatively recent (May 10, 2016) statement by Pennsylvania Solicitor General Bruce Castor that stated reports of the coaches knowing were uncorroborated and based on double and triple hearsay.

Next, there were ONLY THREE not guilty verdicts in the Sandusky case and one of them was Count 7 --the incendiary allegation of a rape (IDSI) -- made by Mike McQueary -- that caused the media firestorm. 

Hobson and Boren ignored that and instead treated McQueary's (uncorroborated/not credible) rape allegation as true because -- to them -- it apparently bolsters his latest (uncorroborated) allegation of coaches being aware of Sandusky's abuse.

One of the troubling aspects of the two latest rounds of media coverage on the PMA insurance case has been the media's failure to corroborate or fact check information in the rush to put out a story quickly.

However, the MOST troubling aspect of the media's coverage is its criticism of those who DO fact-check and/or otherwise look for corroborating evidence of the claimants.

According to retired FBI investigator, Kenneth Lanning, who authored Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis, corroboration of a victim's story is a vital investigative step.  

According to Sandusky's criminal profile, he was an acquaintance offender who slowly groomed his victims to comply with various levels of sexual abuse.  Not all victims would comply to the same levels, therefore there is varying testimony about the actual crimes.

However, what was consistent among Sandusky's victims was the manner in which he operated or his modus operandi.  To summarize, the met his victims through The Second Mile, took about one year to assess them and choose his targets, then began the grooming and victimizing of them.  

Much of the time, Sandusky would surround himself with a gaggle of boys in public settings and at the end of the day would drop the boys off at their homes until he and the eventual victim were alone in a private place.  At that point, the victimization would occur.

Sandusky, according to credible testimony from real victims:

1.  Never victimized a female.

2.  Never victimized a minor male in the presence of a minor female.

3.  Never overtly victimized a minor male in the presence of other minor males.

4.  Never overtly victimized a minor male in the (known) presence of other adults.

5.  Never victimized a stranger.

6.  Never used violence to force himself on a minor male.

7.  Never provided victims with drugs or alcohol in the commission of his crimes.

The recently unsealed claims and previously publicized claims include one or more of these as allegations by claimants who received settlements from Penn State.  

These claims fit Lanning's description of being based on sensationalized media accounts and erroneous public perceptions.  

However, are we really to believe that Hobson, Boren, and the editorial staff of the Washington Post weren't aware of how Sandusky perpetrated his crimes?

Or did they, just like in the Rolling Stone story about UVa, consider the scandalous stories of the claimants as "too good to be double-checked."  

People with at least one ounce of common sense already know the answer.


  1. Thanks, Ray, for taking the time on this.

    1. Bob,
      You're welcome. There were other stories I'd have rather worked on, but the record demanded to be corrected.

  2. Outstanding critique, Ray. I hope it comes to the attention of the reporters and their equally incompetent editors at the Washington Post. What you did was simply what any decent editor would have done, directing plenty of scorn toward these lazy, careless reporters along the way. Clearly, the Post has no one performing that function for Hobson and Boren.

    1. Jack,
      The editors at the Post must all be on vacation.

      Sally Jenkins -- the she devil -- came out of her cave spewing hatred and lies. No one at the Post stopped her.

      In fact, the Post has never bothered to correct any of her libelous articles that she wrote after she fell for the Freeh Report.

    2. Ray, you and readers of your website will be interested in Jay Paterno's open letter to Jenkins, which I just saw moments ago. I look forward to your commentary on his lengthy and pointed take-down of her. "She-devil" is far too kind to describe her. Here's the link to the open letter:

  3. Great job Ray. I haven't said it enough but thanks for bringing some reason to this media induced train wreck.

  4. Guess these two (Hobson & Boren) are never going to be mistaken for true reporters like Woodward & Berstein. Newspaper wonder why their readership is down. They have no need to look any further than the content they publish.

    1. Thom,
      Hobson is an investigative reporter for the - now GET THIS! -- Washington Post SPORTS department.

      I'm not that impressed with Woodard & Bernstein -- like Sara Ganim, they were being fed all the information for their story.

  5. Again, a beautiful job correcting the intentional media false narrative surrounding Joe Paterno. And on the front page of the Washington Post no less.

    Does anyone else see just how perilous a good man's reputation has become in this country? Why would this be? Isn't this upside down and backwards from what we have tried to stand for as a nation? This Paterno debacle should tell anyone with eyes to see that we are in deep, deep trouble. If the Washington Post, a paper that was once the nation's respected standard for fairly objective and accurate reporting, is now running uncorroborated hearsay as factual reporting on its front page, then something is terribly wrong. And frankly, it's frightening. Where have our checks and balances gone that have worked in the past to prevent this sort of thing? I believe they were eliminated the day the World Trade Center towers were brought down with controlled demolition. Our "trusted" mainstream media participated in this attack by publishing traitorous lies that blamed the murder of over 3000 innocent civilians on the wrong people. We believed it, and why shouldn't we have? We thought our mainstream media was with us, not against us.

    So if you can't see the incredible malice and corruption that the mainstream media is now part of with this desperate scapegoating of Paterno, you are just too afraid to face the truth.

    1. Truthseeker,
      America is a great country because we have the right to speak our opinions. However, it is terrible when opinions and allegations are reported as facts.

      In America, we are also supposed to have the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

      If you are not aware, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz were deposed in the insurance litigation case and took the FIFTH on almost every question.

      I would advise ANYONE who is ever testifying at a grand jury or in a deposition to do the same.

    2. Sadly Ray, I believe our beloved America has lost its greatness. No longer is the first amendment a right to protect the people from government tyranny. "Freedom of the press" is now used against us as the entanglement of government with corporate mainstream media grows ever larger. And therein lies the question, who actually controls and benefits from this so-called freedom? Is it us, the people, or is it the autonomous, trillion dollar military/industrial complex? Sure, we have the "right" to spout off in the comments section, and even write letters to the editor. And if we're lucky our "opinions" might get published. But the billions and trillions of dollars that this corrupt military/industrial/media complex has amassed is being used to suppress our voices and ruin our reputations. This is what I mean when I say it is actually perilous to be a good person with a good reputation these days. We that have committed no crimes, like Paterno, Spanier, Curley, and Shcultz are being falsely accused in the press. This in itself should be enough to show the thinking person that the accusers are the ones that are actually guilty of heinous, wide-spread crimes against all of us.

      That is interesting about Curley and Schultz taking the "fifth" in the insurance case. When you say anyone should do this, are you saying the courts are hopelessly corrupt and this is currently the only way to protect oneself? It's a curious thing, because traditionally claiming the "fifth" in our old movies usually is associated with Mob figures and gangsters dummying-up on the stand. Maybe this was when our courts were actually on the side of good, honest people? Are you saying that claiming the "fifth" is a way to avoid the same kind of perjury trap that they set for Kathleen Kane? Maybe you could clarify this a little more for me.

    3. Ray - I saw a Deadspin article on the Curley deposition. It was a complete waste of time and money when the insurance company lawyers knew he was going to take the 5th.

      Yet Deadspin reported that they went on for 168 transcript pages often asking immaterial questions like “Penn State is located in Centre County, correct?”

      It made of mockery of the court system in my opinion.

    4. Truthseeker,
      To clarify, I can't say it LOUDLY enough that if you are ever deposed or subpoenaed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to testify at a grand jury proceeding, TAKE THE FIFTH on every question that is remotely related to the case.

    5. Tim,
      Curley and Schultz (and Spanier) were all burned by a corrupt criminal justice system that created perjury charges against for what individuals believed -- and not what they testified to.

      Check out the perjury particulars for Schultz. The majority fell into the category I described above.

  6. The Washington Post is slipping into tabloid territory with garbage articles like that.

    I came across an opinion piece that was also terrible, in which a child abuse investigator claims that Paterno "chose evil."

    The author gets the first sentence wrong when he claims the recent revelations were from the "Jerry Sandusky child rape trial."

    It gets worse with his wild speculations and convoluted math suggesting that because one child he interviewed was abused 7 to 10 times per day that Sandusky must have committed tens of thousand of sexual assaults between 1976 and 1998 to hundreds of victims.

    He noted that "In cases like this there is almost always grooming behavior, inappropriate touching, followed by acts of oral sex and anal penetration. In 22 years of conducting forensic interviews of children, maybe only a dozen have told me it happened only one time."

    Yet he failed to notice that at least 3 of the newly revealed accusers allege a single instance of abuse and no grooming. You'd think that would raise a red flag.

    The 1971 accuser alleged one assault in a campus bathroom. The 1976 accuser alleged one assault in a communal campus shower surrounded by other teens. The 1988 accuser alleged one assault in a hot tub.

    1. Tim,
      You are correct. The author doesn't even know that the filings were from an insurance litigation case -- which means he didn't read them.

      I have commented on that article as well.

      His use of statistics are horribly skewed as well and to simply apply the math of one victim to each offender is wrong. A 1980's study by Abel of around 300 non-incarcerated pedophiles revealed a stark difference between same-sex pedophiles and opposite-sex pedophiles, with the former having many more victims and number of offenses.

      I doubt that he looked at any of the filings or even knew what the verdicts were in the Sandusky case. He probably based his story on inaccurate media reports.