If there were still any doubt that the Church-suing sex abuse industry is on a steep decline, one need look no further than the latest tactic of contingency lawyers.
Contingency lawyers have recently been demanding as a condition to settle claims that dioceses first empty out their file cabinets of every unrelated accusation of abuse by any priest stretching back 50 or 60 years, an action which just so happens to generate more potential clients for the lawyers. The lawyers then hold a dramatic press conference in front of blow-up photos of the accused priests to announce the document release in front of a compliant media.
No other organization other than the Catholic Church has ever, of course, agreed to release decades of unrelated and embarrassing internal documents in order to encourage more people to file lawsuits against it. But for all the trouble, the Church naturally gets no credit. The media narrative is invariably that the heroic contingency lawyers had to bravely fight the documents out of the secretive Catholic Church for years – never mentioning that the delay is caused by the protracted legal proceedings necessary before releasing thousands of pages of legally protected personnel files into the public domain.
Barnum and Bailey comes to ChicagoSo when contingency lawyer Jeff Anderson arrived in Chicago to put on another of his sideshows to announce the Archdiocese of Chicago's release of decades-old records relating to accusations of abuse, the Tribune sent in a swarm of reporters including, Stacy St. Clair, Manya Brachear Pashman, Christy Gutowski, and Todd Lighty. There was, of course, very little unexpected in the Tribune's coverage: hysterical headlines, lurid details, no context, and always the most sinister of motives ascribed to all members of the Archdiocese while portraying Anderson as only a noble warrior in search of the truth. Only in passing did the coverage mention that the documents were really only a painful history lesson as almost every document related to incidents which occurred before the late 1980s.
The sad decline of investigative journalism at the Tribune
It's no secret to anyone that the newspaper business, like the sex abuse industry itself, is in a sorry shape. Many newspapers have gone out of business or filed bankruptcy and slashed its newsrooms as the Tribune has. And due to cost pressures, the number of investigative reporters at newspapers has declined dramatically over the last several years.
But at the ailing Chicago Tribune, they have decided to send their limited number of reporters to press conferences to be manipulated by the likes of Jeff Anderson. We last spotted St. Clair and Gutowski in April reading through another document dump from the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois. But simply reading documents distributed at news conferences in Joliet or in Chicago would hardly seem to be the stuff of Woodward and Bernstein. But once again when it comes to the Catholic Church sex abuse narrative, the Tribune is always at the ready to throw its newsroom at any and every story.
For better or worse, the New York Times still sets the agenda for every mid-level and low-rate journalist in this country. And for reasons having much to do with the Times well-known political biases, the Catholic Church sex abuse narrative is a singular obsession of the Times. So it is little wonder that what now passes for investigative journalism at the struggling Tribune is not actually "investigating" records of sex abuse in the Chicago Public Schools or any other organization but simply showing up to press conferences hosted by lawyers to pen yet another tired story about old sex abuse claims in the Catholic Church.