Robert Sirven

J483 Journalistic Interview

Profile Assignment

12 February 2015


In November of 2011, news broke around the country with one of the most horrific and disturbing scandals in collegiate sports history. Jerry Sandusky, an assistant football coach for the Penn State Nittany Lions, was charged with 52 counts of child molestation, and the sports world along with the entire American community was taken completely off guard.

Eventually convicted of these crimes, Sandusky was sentenced to a minimum of thirty to sixty years maximum in prison, and what was left in his wake were the remnants of a university and it’s previously untarnished reputation in tatters. The university president, athletic director, and long admired head football coach, Joe Paterno, were all subjects to blame for the decade long cover-up, and the story not only effected the millions of people who watched collegiate sports, but it brought those who were a part of the Penn State family, students and residents of State College, to the brink.

Lori Shontz, now an instructor at the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon, worked as a writer and senior editor for the Penn State Alumni Magazine, the Penn Stater, during the time of the scandal.

“It was crazy. I can’t express how insane it was to live in State College during that time,” said Shontz.

“It was really horrible. I’m wounded by what happened because I’m a Penn State alum, I was a Penn State employee, and I was a journalist covering this. But my default mode is journalist,” she continued.

As result, Lori along with her colleagues at the Penn Stater ran a black cover for the magazine with the title, “Falling,” and the assumptions that the publication was trying to mend the university’s damaged reputation quickly dissipated.

“The hardest part for me was having people think that because I worked for the alumni magazine that I was there at the time to…to apologize, and we did not do that. We went right at the issue and went very hard at it,” she added.

A seasoned sports journalist, Lori had been covering sports and athletics professionally for more than twenty years before the Penn State incident. Working for publications such as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Press, and the Miami Herald, she had covered some of the world’s largest sporting events such as the Olympics, Final Four, and the BCS National Championship Game.

Her passion for sports began when Lori was growing up in her native town of Pittsburgh, which is famous for its sports tradition.

“I grew up in Pittsburgh when the Steelers won the Super Bowl every year and the Pirates won the NL East, and that’s how I felt the planet worked,” said Shontz.

“I learned sports from my Dad. When I was a kid I would go to the Pirates games, and he taught me how to keep score. We would walk around the ballpark and watch the game from all different angles. My favorite Pirate was Omar Moreno. He was number 18,” she added with a grin.

Taking her love for sports with her, Lori eventually attended Penn State for her college education where she tried out for the school newspaper during her freshman year. Needing sports writers, the newspaper, The Daily Collegian, put Lori on their sports staff and she knew instantly she had found something she loved.

“It was completely clear the first time I walked in there and got my first assignment that this was the place I was supposed to be, and that was it,” said Shontz.

After her first assignment, countless followed as Lori went on to cover the Summer Olympics twice, the men’s and women’s Final Four 10 times, and even traveled to Kenya in 2001 to write a five part series on the rise of the country’s female runners. This particular piece, “Fast Forward: The Rise of Kenya’s Women Runners and How Sports Can Change the World,” won Lori an APSE award for enterprise reporting as well.

Although many of her stories concerning athletes over the years consisted of cheerful and happy endings, the Jerry Sandusky story was one that could not be shifted into a positive direction. However, Lori used the opportunity to be honest with her readers, and herself.

“My mode was let’s understand this. Let’s understand what happened. So I went to all the places no one else went to. I went to the sociology class where they discussed child sex abuse. I went to the journalism class where they discussed how Joe Paterno was covered. I went to the so-called riot and to the other stuff, but if everyone went right, I tried to go left. And I felt like that was my job”, said Shontz.

“Sports magnify things for us…and it’s not all happy. I have written tons of happy stories about really interesting people who do amazing things, but I have also written stories about the serious side, and I think both of them matter,” she added.

Now with the scandal in her rearview mirror, Lori continues to pursue her love for writing at the University of Oregon with a new role as a teacher. Joining the SOJC staff in September of 2014, Lori is now an instructor for the Reporting I and Gateway to Media I and II courses at the U of O.

Charlie Butler, an SOJC instructor and colleague of Lori at the U of O, believes that her experience is what makes her a great teacher for aspiring journalists.

“She’s not teaching from the textbook, she’s teaching from her real life experiences. I think the combination of expertise and just being a good reporter is what her strengths are,” said Butler.

Lori plans on continuing to teach and write at the University of Oregon in the years ahead. When asked what her pitch was for those who want to enter the field of sports journalism in the future, she said, “Everything that happens in life happens in sports, so if you know sports, you can tell stories about life.”


Contact Information:


Lori Shontz


University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication


314 Allen Hall


Charlie Butler


University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication


314 Allen Hall