The Ugly Harassment of Sara Ganim

“Paterno truthers” won’t give up the fight. That’s their choice. But they should decry misogynistic and sexist attacks.

Sara Ganim doesn’t need anybody to defend her. The former Patriot-News reporter has a Pulitzer Prize under her belt already—for breaking open the Jerry Sandusky scandal that ended Joe Paterno’s reign at Penn State—as well as glamorous post-scandal gig at CNN. She’s doing OK.

And yet …

A few things have become increasingly clear in recent months, particularly in the aftermath of the Paterno family’s decision to release its response to the Freeh Report: At Penn State, it may be years or decades before the trauma surrounding Sandusky and Paterno feels like anything more distant than the present tense. That there are quite a few Joe Paterno supporters out there who still feel like he was unfairly castigated for Sandusky’s decade-long evasion of authorities. That a number of them blame Ganim for besmirching Paterno’s reputation. And that a small-but-vocal number of those people are determined to hound Ganim—sometimes in ugly and frightening ways—for the sin of having committed journalism.

Twitter, it seems, has become a particularly scary venue for her. On Friday night, she posted this:

And then, as evidence of what she’s dealing with, posted this:

Now: Bucceroni’s got his own set of issues, but it’s not like he’s a complete exception here. It’s time for the harassment to stop. And it will probably require some loyal Penn Staters—the vast, vast majority of them good, blameless people—to help put an end to it.

Let’s put aside how incredibly tedious, tiresome and unavoidable the “Paterno truther” brigade has become for anyone who dares write (or even tweet) credulously about the downfall of Saint JoePa. What even the truthers should understand is this: Fighting back against Paterno’s critics by using sexually demeaning and degrading language is really not the best way to demonstrate that you have your priorities in the right place when a sex abuse scandal—and the ease with which it was overlooked—is at the heart of the whole neverending mess in the first place.

You don’t have a ton of credibility, truthers, except with each other. You reduce it further every time you call Ganim a “bitch” or suggest she’s been sleeping around. And you reduce it when you keep your silence in the face of such misogyny, just because you don’t like Ganim and her work. All of which will actively short-circuit a renaissance for Paterno’s memory, or Penn State itself.

Unfortunately, Ganim isn’t the only female journalist to face such harassment: Mother Jones’ editor Clara Jeffrey suffered days of ugly, violent, misogynistic tweets a few weeks back after wading into the gun controversy following the gun death of a retired American sniper. This stuff is routine: Women who write about unpopular subjects in unpopular ways routinely face rape threats and sexual taunts in emails, comments sections, and on social media.

Enough.

This has to stop. Women journalists shouldn’t have to be afraid to do their jobs because they’re women. And Ganim, in particular, shouldn’t be subject to a lifetime of harassment because she knocked a football coach, of all people, off his pedestal.

Ganim, to her credit, appears willing to stick it out in the Twitterverse. (Indeed, she stirred fresh anger over the weekend by criticizing the transparency of a Penn State charity.) It’s possible the Sandusky scandal won’t go away for decades, yet. But we don’t need to let the worst, ugliest, most violent voices dominate that conversation.

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