Sara Ganim, the reporter who recently won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking the Penn State University sex abuse scandal, said yesterday at Stony Brook University that any good reporter “always [has] to go beyond the obvious” when writing.

Sara Ganim at Stony Brook University
Sara Ganim, reporter for The Patriot-News, broke the Penn State University sexual abuse scandal and won a Pulitzer Prize for local reporting at the age of 24. Photo by Kevin Lizarazo

“Reporters always have to think about moving the story forward,” Ganim said. “News happens so fast these days that all you have to do is pull yourself away and tell the readers something they don’t already know.”

Ganim, who writes for “The Patriot-News” in Harrisburg, Pa., and is a correspondent for CNN, came to the Student Activities Center Auditorium last Wednesday as part of the “My Life As…” lecture series, sponsored by SBU’s School of Journalism, and spoke for more than one hour to a room full of students and faculty.

Throughout the evening, Ganim explained that writing about the Penn State sex scandal was not an easy task. It required a lot of work by Ganim and her fellow staff including getting a lot of feedback, talking to bosses and lawyers and knocking on doors until you get there.

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“What I’ve learned while reporting on this scandal, is that you should never underestimate the fact that people will lie to you,” Ganim said. “You have to read people. It’s a huge part of this job.”

Ganim said she became a reporter at the young age of 15. She began as a freelance reporter for “The Sun-Sentinel” in Florida before interning with the Associated Press. Ganim graduated from Penn State University in 2008 and was working as a crime reporter for “The Centre Daily Times” when she received a tip about Jerry Sandusky. In January 2011, when she took her position with “The Patriot-News,” she had already been pursuing the sex scandal for almost two years.

“While writing about the Penn State scandal, I realized that we have to love what we do to make it work. If you are not passionate, then find another vocation now,” Ganim said.

Sara Ganim at Stony Brook University
Professor Dean Miller interviewed Sara Ganim on Monday night. Ganim came to Stony Brook University as part of the School of Journalism’s My Life As series. Photo by Kevin Lizarazo

Ganim said her experiences helped her to better understand the job of a journalist.

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“When you leave these first jobs, you’ve got the skills to do really well at your next job,” Ganim said. “Your first job cannot be your dream job or there has been a misstep.”

In addition, Ganim said her experiences helped her to understand life.

“The impact of this scandal on my own life as well as the victims’ has been huge,” Ganim said. “I have learned that good things can come along with bad things. Because of my reporting, lots of victims who have been raped have managed to talk about their own experience.”

One of the students in the audience, Miguel Estrelia, a freshman electrical engineering major, said he really enjoyed the speech.

“I had to come to this speech for my news literacy class,” Estrelia said. “At first, I didn’t really care about the class, but I have to say that this speech helped me a lot to see what people go through. Overall, Sara Ganim’s speech was really empowering.”

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Ganim finished her speech by offering a life lesson.

“You have to realize that you are not going to be the best every day,” she said. “Everything happens for a reason. I’m here today because I have worked a lot for it. I have made some mistakes in the past that actually helped me to move on because I’ve learned from them. Every human being needs to accept his own limitations.”

Check out The Statesman’s video interview with Sara Ganim and News Editor Deanna Del Ciello.

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