A new article from the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) by Boston-area professor Terry Ann Knopf asserts that there was a "collective silence" from the vast array of local Boston television stations during the frenzied 2002 reporting of the Catholic Church sex abuse story.
However, research from TheMediaReport.com uncovers that CJR's claim is demonstrably false. In fact, Boston television stations actually played an essential role in creating the fevered animus against the Catholic Church that enveloped the Boston area before it soon spread to the rest of the country.
Just the facts, ma'amThe Boston Globe happily picked up on Knopf's article with a piece of its own and naturally never questioned the premise of Knopf's article.
The Globe quoted Knopf as saying, "Boston's TV stations were largely derelict in their own duties" to report the Catholic Church abuse story.
"Largely derelict"? Not even close.
1. For starters: As far back as May of 1992, it was local station WBZ-TV – not the Boston Globe – which first exposed the story to the Boston area of the notorious priest Rev. James Porter, who molested many youngsters decades earlier before he exited the priesthood in the early 1970s.
Building upon WBZ's initial report, the Boston Globe would then publish nearly 60 articles on the Porter case, many on the front page, in the remaining eight months of 1992.
2. In June 1998, when the Catholic Church laicized the notorious John Geoghan from the priesthood, it was the lead story on every single major local TV newscast in Boston. Don't believe it? Watch this video (posted by SNAP leader Phil Saviano at YouTube).
3. In December 1999, when Geoghan was arraigned on criminal abuse charges, local TV covered the story exhaustively and included interviews with alleged victims. Stations would continue to report on the Geoghan case in ensuing years, even going as far as to follow Geoghan in public running errands.
4. In April 2001, when alleged victims of clergy abuse spoke in front of the Massachusetts legislature in support of clergy members being included within the mandated reporting law, local TV stations were there aplenty to give it prominent coverage.
5. On January 9, 2002, when Cardinal Bernard Law held a press conference to address the Boston Globe's reporting (which began only three days earlier), local television stations abruptly preempted regular programming to carry the event live. (Not convinced? Here's the video.)
Our list is very abbreviated – quite far from exhaustive – but you get the idea.
The enormous story of Catholic Church sex abuse did not just emanate from the Boston Globe. It blossomed from all media at the time, including national television, talk radio, the Internet, and, yes, local television.
Don't let the Columbia Journalism Review tell you otherwise.