The proprietors of a website called The Framing of Joe Paterno have commissioned a poll that shows that the public has less than solid grasp on the details of the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State.
The implication, according to the poll’s sponsors, of the results “(proves) our premise that the extreme media bias in this case has caused a massive amount of ignorance with regard to the actual facts” – thereby framing Joe Paterno and subsequently getting him fired. To wit, the survey released today showed:
- Sixty-eight percent of those surveyed believe Penn State “fired a coach of a major men’s sports program in 2011 for sexually abusing young boys.”
- Fifty-two percent believe coverage of Penn State has been “fair and accurate.”
- Twenty-eight percent believe Paterno was accused of molesting children.
- And seven other mostly down-in-the-weeds questions from the investigation or trial.
Full results can be found here.
“This poll may prove our case that the media has effectively ‘framed’ Joe Paterno by creating a false and ratings-driven narrative about this story,” said Los Angeles-based documentary filmmaker John Ziegler, a leader of the project. “This is a classic case of garbage information in, garbage information out.”
This premise – of course – is pure sophistry. While media bias often is very real, it is not necessarily the source of “ignorance with regard to the actual facts” or a “classic case of garbage information in, garbage information out.”
Instead, the “scientific poll” of 1,000 adults by a “highly respected” polling firm is just that – a poll of 1,000 adults who may or may not have been paying attention to the Sandusky/Paterno/Penn State case over the last nine months. They are busy people who worry about work, their families and thousands of other things other than the fate of a millionaire football coach.
This was not a survey of the Board of Trustees members who decided Paterno’s fate, which would have provided much more interesting – and relevant – results.
The Framing Paterno brain trust, however, believes it shows something much more sinister. From their news release:
Despite being designed for respondents to easily recognize the correct answers of mostly true/false questions, the poll results indicate that only 55% of Americans know that Joe Paterno was not accused of molesting children. Similarly, an incredible 68% incorrectly thought that a description of the little covered Syracuse child abuse case was actually that of the so called Penn State scandal (an astounding 1 % correctly identified Syracuse, despite it being a multiple choice question).
Overall, respondents collectively failed to achieve even close to a meager 60% “success” rate on ANY of eight simple true/false questions about the basic facts of the case. On six of the nine overall “knowledge” questions respondents did FAR worse than if they had simply guessed. The average “correct response” rate for all eight true/false questions was a stunningly low 21%.
Seven of the true/false questions deal directly with potentially “Pro-Paterno” facts which the media has largely ignored. The range of the “correct response” rate for these questions was from just 25% to an absolutely absurd 9%. Interestingly, Pennsylvania residents scored significantly better than average on all but two of the questions.
The tenth question of the poll measured opinion on the overall media coverage of Joe Paterno and, like the rest of the survey, it is a damning indictment of the state of journalism. Despite the lack of any other perspective currently being aired in the mainstream media, and the obvious ignorance to the “Pro-Paterno” facts of many of those polled, only 52% of Americans say that the media coverage of Joe Paterno during the scandal has been fair and accurate.
Proving what, exactly? What does it matter if the public has a poor understanding of what went on at Penn State?
Penn State as an institution and as a football program failed children whose lives were ruined by the monstrosity of Jerry Sandusky. As with any large institutional failure, the men in charge had to be removed – even St. Joe of State College.