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Published November 21, 2011, 11:30 PM

Briggs: News offers evidence of twisted world

I’ve been an avid TV news viewer as long as I can remember. In junior high, I couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t want to grow up to be Jane Pauley. But lately, after a news career of 25 years, I’m having a hard time even watching.

By: Tracy Briggs, INFORUM

I’ve been an avid TV news viewer as long as I can remember.

In junior high, I couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t want to grow up to be Jane Pauley. But lately, after a news career of 25 years, I’m having a hard time even watching.

Maybe it’s because I’m a mom now, but probably not. You don’t have to be a parent to find some of the recent news stories concerning children at the very least troubling and at the most stomach-turning.

Of course, top among these stories is what’s happening at Penn State.

I watched the other day as former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky proclaimed his innocence on charges that he sexually abused at least nine boys. He says he was just “horsing around” with the boys in the shower (as if that’s somehow acceptable).

I’m not sure how this man ended up speaking in his own defense. Did he really think the public would somehow rally behind him when they heard his side of the story? And let me get this right, Mr. Sandusky, a handful of eyewitnesses and nine boys – all of whom had eerily similar stories of sexual abuse – are all lying?

You must be the most persecuted man on the planet.

I won’t go into Sandusky’s alleged wrongdoings any further. He’ll have his day in court. But what is nearly as sickening as the charges leveled in the grand jury indictment is watching how this is all playing out at Penn State.

What we might be seeing is a decade long cover-up by an administration that seemingly cared more about the reputation of its football program than the well-being of young children. And, in response, we are seeing misguided college students rallying behind the wrong cause.

Thousands of students are protesting the treatment of longtime head coach Joe Paterno, who has since admitted “I should have done more.” The students are outraged that Paterno was fired over his potential role in the cover-up.

You can certainly understand their love and appreciation for this 84-year-old man who was coaching at Penn State before some of their grandparents went there. What did Paterno know and when did he know it? A court of law can figure all of that out. But right now, shouldn’t the students’ outrage be directed at their institution of higher learning for covering up the rape of little boys?

Joe Paterno will be just fine. His legacy will survive. Their outrage could be better channeled in making sure this never happens again. I’d like to think college students are smart enough to grasp the bigger picture here.

But it’s not just the news out of Penn State. Consider the other stories dominating the airwaves these days:

  • A Washington state mother who says her toddler was kidnapped after she left him in the car alone on a highway.

  • The Kansas City mom who says her baby was abducted while she was passed out.

  • The story of two teachers in Ohio caught on tape repeatedly bullying a special needs student.

Those stories might not be as vile as what’s happening at Penn State, but nonetheless they illustrate a certain disregard and dismissal for children. Our newscasts are reflections of our present-day society, and I’m afraid years from now, our descendants won’t look favorably on how we seem to be treating the most vulnerable among us.

Ironically, a man who once played for Sandusky and Paterno might have summed it up best.

Penn State alum and NFL great Matt Millen, now an ESPN analyst, was addressing the scandal at the university, but he might well be speaking in general terms.

“This is about people. And if we can’t protect our kids, we, as a society, are pathetic.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Tracy Briggs is a mother of two and is an employee Forum Communications Co.

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