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Penn State Football: A New Wave of Sandusky Scandal Documentaries, Books and Articles

by on May 25, 2012 2:15 AM

As the Jerry Sandusky trial nears, the number of books, documentaries and magazine articles about the scandal and Joe Paterno is growing.

In production are a pair of documentaries – both led by filmmakers with State College and Penn State ties.

Also in the works are are at least two new books – joining a book and an e-book that have already been released.

A major magazine plans a story on the scandal’s impact on the community, and that comes on the heels of an Esquire magazine piece that hit earlier this week. And that was preceded by a 6,732-tome that appeared in ESPN The Magazine in April.

All this before the start of a trial of Sandusky, Curley and Schultz. And the release of the Freeh report.

Here’s a rundown of what the media has in the works:

DOCUMENTARIES

State College native Jonathan Koch, a principal with Hollywood’s Asylum Entertainment, has assembled a cinematic dream team to produce “Happy Valley,” a 90-minute documentary that will look at the scandal and State College.

Koch was a volunteer for The Second Mile as a youth, and feels so profoundly positive about that experience that he proudly counts it as “the only thing only on my bio that has lasted from my early years.”

The project, which includes the director of acclaimed and gut-wrenching “Pat Tillman Story,” is intensely personal for Koch. He told me earlier this week that “the goal of the piece will be to cast State College for what it is and what I know it is, scandal or not.

“Obviously, something very bad happened in a place that is very good.”

Not previously reported is the role of Mark Lima in the project. Lima, a State High and Penn State grad, is a senior producer for ABC’s Nightline, and an industry leader. Lima, whose father is a retired Penn State Spanish literature professor, is a respected industry veteran who previously worked for ABC sports.

A second documentary, led by Kelly Dolak, Penn State class of 1996, has been in the works for quite awhile. She has been filming “No Act of Ours,” since the grand jury report was publicly released in November, she told Laura Nichols of StateCollege.com.

Dolak has been following a small group of protagonists closely, and has spoken with professors, students and community members who have been affected by the scandal.

Dolak said she has been to every scandal-related hearing and spends most weekends in State College. “I want to know what Penn State alumni are thinking, what they’re angry about and what they want answers to,” she said. “I went to the students. It was intuition. I wanted to know what the students were going through.”

Dolak said she’s aiming for a release date of 2013, but it could be pushed back until 2014 depending on how the narrative unfolds.

BOOKS

Joe Posnanski’s “Paterno” is slated to be released on Aug. 28, according to Amazon.com. Posnanski told fellow sports writer Dave Kindred that his writing had to be done by the end of April, to allow time for editing, printing and the like.

So, the book is already completed for all intents and purposes – finished before the trial begins.

Posnanski, most probably the most-acclaimed sportswriter in America, met Paterno when in 2009 JoePos wrote an article about JoePa for Sports Illustrated.

Posnanski moved to State College in the fall of 2011, with a $750,000 book contract in hand, to write the definitive piece on the coach’s broad impact on the school, the community, the Commonwealth and college athletics.

Three months later, he got more than he bargained for: “It’s a very, very different book now,” Posnanski told Kindred. “But, in many ways, it’s still the same. It’s still about his life – a life that changed dramatically at the end. And in the last three months of his life, when nobody else had access to him, I was with him quite a bit.”

Also in the works: I was contacted by a respected and experienced  investigative journalist who is researching a book about the scandal.  He has authored a half-dozen books, including several on reporting, and spent many years as a professor (not at Penn State).

A former high-level administrator at Penn State pointed him in my direction, with some questions about other potential books hitting the marketplace.

Last month, former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporters Bill Moushey and Bob Dvorchak  released their book, “Game Over: Jerry Sandusky, Penn State, and the Culture of Silence.”

The book’s marketing says Penn State had “a culture built around one deified coach with a glorious vision to have success with honor (that failed) to act in the best interests of the most vulnerable.”

Paterno’s family rebutted much of the book, saying that “it is attracting attention because of its egregious use of false and slanderous statements about the late Penn State Coach Joe Paterno … (it is a) unprofessional and irresponsible rehash …”

I checked on Thursday, and “Game Over” is not available in the two biggest bookstores in downtown State College, the Student Book Store and Got Used Bookstore. It is on sale at the on-campus bookstore, the Penn State Bookstore, which is managed by Barnes & Noble’s college bookstore division.

The Barnes & Noble retail store, about four miles from campus, also has the book for sale. But it is not selling very well. “Game Over,” out for just five weeks, is on-sale for $13.49 – a big discount off of its $26.99 cover price.

Then there’s an e-book, a 39-pager called “Death Comes to Happy Valley” and written by Jonathan Mahler. It came out just weeks after Paterno and offered little original reporting, many errors and – full disclosure – a visit to my class last December. (Please note: The errors are not my fault.)

Finally, it’s doubtful the primary principals of the scandal will pen first-person accounts. At least one has been approached several times, but has rebuffed all offers.

MAGAZINES

First, there was the ESPN The Magazine story by Don Van Natta that skewered Penn State, Gov. Tom Corbett and featured a number of heretofore unseen documents.

Then there was the Esquire piece that was written for the magazine’s June/July “Fatherhood” issue. It was pitched as an homage to Joe The Father, but came across as Joe The Conflcited with possibly something to hide.

And upcoming is a piece, scheduled at least, by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Frank Fitzpatrick on the schism – real or imagined – in the State College community caused by the scandal. Fitzpatrick, who has written a pair of books about Paterno, was in town recently to write a story for Newsweek and its publishing partner The Daily Beast.

His premise is not new – or even correct – or, maybe, even news.

But the media will continue to come to town, with their own idea of what’s happened in Happy Valley, before the final chapter is written.

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Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979. He is a senior lecturer in Penn State's College of Communications and teaches a pair of classes in the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism: “Sports Writing” and “Introduction to the Sports Industry.” He created and taught for several years the Center’s course on “Joe Paterno, Communications and The Media.” Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PSUPoorman. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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