Patriot-News was ‘our most formidable competition,’ says NYT editor

In an email to subscribers with “the story behind the story” of the Penn State Scandal, Joe Sexton describes how The New York Times responded Saturday, Nov. 5, as word spread that Jerry Sandusky was being accused of sexual abuse.

It didn’t take long for us to recognize our most formidable competition. It was the Patriot-News of Harrisburg. Reporters there had done ample and fine and audacious work over the last year chipping away at the story — revealing an investigation, identifying victims, and much more. It was heartening to see — a smallish paper in tough times for the industry doing courageous, ambitious, dogged work in taking on some of the most powerful and recognizable institutions and people in the state. Hats off.

But the NYT was there in force by Monday, and by Tuesday midday we had produced our own major scoop: Paterno, after more than six decades at the school, was not going to survive as coach. Twitter went nuts. Paterno’s family called it premature. Everyone credited the NYT. No one matched us. The next day, Paterno was fired.

How did we get it? Let’s call it the payoff from hard work over many years.

The Patriot-News published an editor’s note last week chastising the Times for a subsequent story that revealed information about one of the accusers. In a statement provided to Jim Romenesko, The Times said the story “was careful and sensitive.” Patriot-News editor David Newhouse told Romenesko, “I love the New York Times.”

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  • Anonymous

    I guess but sending out a self-congratulatory email like that that clearly is making a swipe at their main competitor, and offers a backhanded compliment to the local paper is poor judgement in my view. Hubris. Their victim story was not news and risked outing a victim who has already been subjected to unspeakable things, and for what? To make the twitterbots go nuts? As I said, competition can be a good thing and can actually provide a public service, but I doubt that that email had the intended effect.

  • http://www.poynter.org Poynter

    Mark, I don’t know if this is relevant to you, but there was a little bit more that followed Joe’s comment about hard work and I didn’t mean to give the wrong impression of what he said. He wrote, “How did we get it? Let’s call it the payoff from hard work over many
    years — [Pete] Thamel is the finest college sports investigator I know; and
    tips from sources made on the fly, thanks to Viera.” –Julie

  • http://www.postlinearity.com gregorylent

    everything wrong about the guiding mindset of the new york times is revealed in this post.

  • http://nutrasciencetrial.com Nutra Science

    I regularly check Boston.com and think the articles are pretty good, but I’m sure there’s a better website for Pats fans!

  • Anonymous

    I’m not in the news biz, and every business has its own way of talking, but the NYT statement strikes me as one of the most patronizing things I’ve ever read.  Were they patting the PNL on the head when they wrote this?

  • Jeff McCloud

    As a longtime subscriber to The Patriot-News, its coverage of the Penn State scandal has been spot on and phenomenal. While I understand the Times calling the Patriot a “smallish” paper, let’s also remember that it’s in the capital city of Pennsylvania and that it’s gone head to head and won statewide Newspaper of the Year competitions against the Inquirer, the Post-Gazette and The Morning Call.

  • Anonymous

    i remember. it’s an interesting question. all papers use them obviously with outposts being shuttered everywhere. but how much and when…

  • Anonymous

    “How did we get it? Let’s call it the payoff from hard work over many years.”

    or it could be this:

    Penn State Univesity Board of Trustees

    David R. Jones

    Assistant
    Managing Editor (Retired), The New York Times

    As National Editor, he directed the Times
    national news report for 14 years, including coverage of four Presidential
    elections. He later served as Editor of National Editions and Assistant
    Managing Editor.

  • Anonymous

    remember that flap a few years ago about whether and how often the times used freelancers? it’s interesting to see from this writing that at least 2 freelancers were critical to the times’ initial coverage of the penn state scandal and maybe throughout. i had always wondered how the times was able to respond so quickly to breaking news just about anywhere. it would be very interesting to know how often the times uses freelancers on the latest big story, as well as how many different freelancers they use a year on news stories.

  • Anonymous

    I read both the NYTimes and the WSJ and by far and away, the WSJ’s coverage has been superior. While the NY Times is concerning itself with a local paper, they’ve been getting their clocked cleaned by the WSJ. They also had to walk back a story with a correction and an amended headline that basically changed the entire premire of a story. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/19/sports/ncaafootball/charity-founded-by-sandusky-plans-to-fold.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=second%20mile&st=cse The original headline (still found in their search results) Charity Founded by Sandusky Makes Plans to Fold and the story headline now is:  Charity Founded by Accused Ex-Coach May Fold.

    I love a newspaper war as much as anyone but fair is fair.

  • http://www.stuckbetweenstations.net Alex Klein

    Good to see!

  • http://www.poynter.org Poynter

    Alex, I thought we had. It’s added now. Here’s the link: http://jimromenesko.com/2011/11/26/reaction-to-patriot-news-editorial-amazingly-passionate/ –Julie

  • http://www.stuckbetweenstations.net Alex Klein

    Why would you not link to the Romenesko post? Romenesko did the reporting that got that statement.

  • http://www.stuckbetweenstations.net Alex Klein

    Why would you not link to the Romenesko post? Romenesko did the reporting that got that statement.

  • http://www.stuckbetweenstations.net Alex Klein

    Why would you not link to the Romenesko post? Romenesko did the reporting that got that statement.