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Penn State Trial Should Be Covered as the News It Is

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Having heard fleetingly on the radio Tuesday that Mike McQueary had -- somewhat surprisingly so early in the proceeding -- been called to testify at the Jerry Sandusky Penn State child sex abuse trial, I searched for the story in this morning's New York Times. I wanted a recap of what McQueary had said, and an assessment as to how well he'd held up on cross-examination.

Searching through the news sections of the Times, I came up empty. Imagine my surprise in locating the recap on page B-17 of the Sports section, behind the Thunder-Heat story, behind the report on Alex Rodriguez's tie of Lou Gehrig's record for grand slams -- you get the picture.

The story itself was interesting, balanced and readable. But, why on earth is this being classified as a sports story? With all the other issues in the world -- and with many, if not most of the Times readers getting this story online -- a natural question might be "Who cares?"

I care. And the reason I care is that every decision that a major print newspaper or magazine still makes about play, placement and categorization carries with it implications for how the story is regarded -- not just by those who write, edit and place it, but for those who read it.

And, quite frankly, once the editors have made the decision to publish daily coverage of the trial, putting it on Page B-17 with the sports scores tends to trivialize not only the story, but the issue of child molestation. If this were an issue of Broadway theater interns being routinely victimized sexually by producers or directors, I doubt strongly that it would be stuck back in the Arts pages.

The Sandusky trial is a national crime story. Not much different from the Catholic priests, Casey Anthony, or O.J. Simpson (which, in my recollection, was not carried back with the football scores). It represents a tragedy and an important issue which needs light shed on it.

How the American justice system copes with cases like this should be of interest to all Americans. But those who are interested should not have to go on a scavenger hunt among the box scores to find it.