What if it happened here?

One of the most often asked questions among students and even more so among those outside college journalism is “How would you cover (insert scandal, tragedy, crisis) if it happened on your campus?”

There is no good answer. I usually hide behind an answer like “The best we can.” But that is hollow and cowardly. The better answer (I don’t think there really is a BEST answer), I think, is to show what others have done.

Most recently, the student journalists at Penn State sadly have had the responsibility of reporting what may turn out to be the story of their still-young careers. The Penn State Daily Collegian has done a pretty good job of covering the still-developing Jerry Sandusky scandal and its fallout.

Today’s coverage includes a photo slideshow of the NCAA press conference and student reaction. There was an editorial in anticipation of the sanctions and all angles were covered and placed in prominent positions on the paper’s website. Its opinion section includes one of the best columns on the situation that I have seen anywhere.

That guest columnist, Jonathan Mercuri, is an advertising major at Penn State and he has a fantastic idea.

It’s time for Penn State to rebrand itself as something other than a football university that is focused on preserving a statue of a coach in front of a stadium.

It’s time for us to focus on our world-class education system.

It’s time for us to turn our attention toward healing for those who were abused, not healing our pride.

And the Daily Collegian has a job that none of us would ever want. It has to cover the end of its school as they know it. But like those before them that covered hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes, these students are going to work each day and serving their readers well.

And they are proving me right every time I tell “civilians” that “They aren’t college journalists, they are journalists who happen to be in college.”

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