John Allen

How to keep 'Uncle Ted' McCarrick in the news? Educate readers and keep Vigano talking

How to keep 'Uncle Ted' McCarrick in the news? Educate readers and keep Vigano talking

Not long after I broke into the journalism business over 20 years ago did my mother ask me a very interesting question: “Where do you get all that news that ends up in the newspaper?”

It was a question any news consumer should ask. I gave a simple — although in hindsight — a somewhat unhelpful answer.

“It’s complicated,” I replied.

I went on to explain how reporters use interviews, documents, press releases and news conferences to put together the news.

It really isn’t that complicated. Journalists have made it a practice for years to make their jobs sound like (me included) as if they were doing brain surgery. As one editor would always tell me when things got hard at work: “We’re not saving lives here.”

Maybe not, but being a reporter is a massive responsibility. Never has the process of journalism — and what it is that reporters and editors actually do — come under the microscope as it has the past few years. I suppose that’s a result of Donald Trump getting elected president and the allegation that fake news helped him get elected.

Whether it did or not, that’s not the point. What is the point is that citizens — the people we reporters call “readers” — have become more aware of the process. At least they want transparency from news organizations when it comes to how and why we report on stories.

This takes me to my point. As we near the one-year anniversary of the revelations that exposed the past misdeeds of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the story doesn’t look like it is subsiding anytime soon. In a recent post, I highlighted the importance of the papal news conference and how American media outlets were potentially being manipulated by the Vatican press office. Also, tmatt offered this post on a related topic: “Big journalism question: Would new U.S. bishops hotline have nabbed 'Uncle Ted' McCarrick?”

Like with everything in life (and journalism), it’s complicated.

Longtime Vatican observer John Allen wrote a column for Crux on how those papal news conferences that take place among the seats of aboard the plane taking Pope Francis back to Rome aren’t what they used to be. The piece ruffled some feathers among the Vatican press corps, even triggering a rebuttal piece from Joshua McElwee of the National Catholic Reporter. This is how he opened that column:

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Three months in, more newsrooms need to get serious about Catholic sex abuse coverage

Three months in, more newsrooms need to get serious about Catholic sex abuse coverage

As of today, we’re moving into the fourth month of Cardinal-gate or whatever one wants to call the flood of revelations, regrets, resignations and just plain revulsion over the re-awakened sex abuse crisis.

Reporting on the first phase of this crescendo of bad news started kind of slowly in June as news of then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s penchant for finding sex partners among his seminarians started leaking out. During that first month, only the New York Times and the Washington Post did much of anything on it and then mostly by their religion and-or Vatican reporters.

Fast forward to this recent Post piece, by an investigative team designated to look into the actions of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl. Yes, there should have been a team put on the case way before this, but better late than never. You can tell that news executives are taking a story seriously when they start throwing staff at it.

A dozen years before he became a top leader in the Catholic Church, Donald Wuerl was weighing a fateful decision. It was 1994, and Wuerl, then a bishop, had removed a priest accused of child sex abuse from a Pittsburgh-area parish. But the priest refused to get psychiatric treatment, and instead asked Wuerl for time off…

The case, one of hundreds mentioned in a groundbreaking Pennsylvania grand jury report released last month, sheds light on how Wuerl handled sex abuse claims in the Pittsburgh Diocese from 1988 to 2006 — a period that now threatens to rewrite his legacy and hasten the end of his career. Wuerl, 77, announced recently that he would go to the Vatican to discuss his possible resignation with Pope Francis, and although it is not clear when that meeting will take place, Wuerl is scheduled to be in Rome this weekend.

While Wuerl built a reputation as an early advocate for removing pedophile priests from parishes, a Post examination found that at times he allowed accused clerics to continue as priests in less visible roles without alerting authorities or other officials. The review focused on the 25 priests whose cases, according to the grand jury, Wuerl handled directly.

The grand jury report is what moved reporting from just the religion team on these two papers to a much broader newsroom effort with more resources. There’s good solid reporting in the Post piece. And how can one ignore news like what Vox.com said about eight states taking up investigations into hidden clerical abuse within their borders?

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In gripping 13 stories, Crux charts sweeping worldwide persecution of Christians

In gripping 13 stories, Crux charts sweeping worldwide persecution of Christians

For several months now, Crux, the Sunday religion magazine published by the Boston Globe, has been putting out a series of well-researched pieces from all over the world on the new Christian martyrs mostly written by John L. Allen. There have been 13 stories posted to date, many of them in the final days of December.

One of the most interesting stories was on the new martyrs of Latin America.

When one thinks of that continent, thoughts of fast-growing Pentecostal churches or the homeland of the current pope spring to mind. What most of us don’t think of are the folks in El Salvador and Colombia who are caught in the middle of the wars between left-wing and right-wing death squads. The carnage is enormous and tragedy is that the deaths are so common, few journalists report on them any more.

What’s sad is how rare these stories are. Not since Mark O’Keefe’s five-part series on Christian persecution worldwide that ran in 1998 in the Oregonian has there been anything like it. I also noted Crux's series this past spring, so this is a quick check-in to see how their coverage has progressed. Click here to see tmatt's original post at the start of the series.

Here’s how one article starts:

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador/BOGOTÁ, Colombia -- When two Colombian women, a mother and a grandmother, were shot to death within a month of one another in early 2013, there was tragically little on the surface to make their deaths remarkable. They became merely the latest casualties of a decades-long civil war that’s left 220,000 people dead.

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Media obsession dangers: Pope and gay priests edition

Ermagerd, everybody! The Pope has renounced all church teaching on everything! Stop the presses! Start them again! Freak out!

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Pope Francis' affinity for liberation theology -- wait, what?

For this post, we’re not going to critique past the first sentence of this New York Times story on Pope Francis headlined “Francis’ Humility and Emphasis on the Poor Strike a New Tone at the Vatican.” To be fair, that headline might have caused half of our Roman Catholic readers to spasm in response. But we’re not touching it. We’re going to look at just the first line. Here:

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Unnecessary words and the Vatican's 'gay lobby'

Yesterday a reader tweeted that The Guardian was clearly trying to insinuate that Pope Benedict XVI is compromised in some way, resigning in disgrace. The headline:

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