The new story, as with the earlier coverage, may prove to be the tip of a very large iceberg. The Globe is soliciting tips for follow-ups, conjuring up images of the way the movie Spotlight ends, with reporters overwhelmed with phone calls from victims.
Sadly, we’ve become so accustomed to the notion that predators will sexually prey on children that the details sometimes seem to blend together. But I found this paragraph to be absolutely riveting in its evocation of a dystopian alternate universe:
One winter day around 1964, Hooper said, he wet his bed, infuriating his dorm master, Claude Hasbrouck, who was also the school’s glee club and drama director. Children feared Hasbrouck, who was known for squeezing the flesh under boys’ chins—“chinnies,” he called them—and for his Nazi memorabilia collection, including a Nazi flag on his apartment wall.
It gets worse. But can you imagine being 13 years old, as one of his victims was, and to have your entire world defined by that horrifying environment?
The piece — a news analysis that was posted online Wednesday — examines a United Nations report on the church’s pedophile-clergy crisis and finds it wanting. The problem, Allen writes, is that the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child threw in gratuitous criticism of the church’s stands on abortion rights, same-sex marriage and birth control. Allen explains:
Not only are those bits of advice most unlikely to be adopted, they may actually strengthen the hand of those still in denial in the church about the enormity of the abuse scandals by allowing them to style the UN report as an all-too-familiar secular criticism driven by politics.
That could overshadow the fact that there are, in truth, many child protection recommendations in the report that the church’s own reform wing has long championed.
Overall: smart, authoritative and unconventional. Like many, I am accustomed to reading (and agreeing with) criticism of the Catholic Church’s stands on cultural issues. So I found it refreshing and unusual to read a piece arguing that, sometimes, such criticism can be counterproductive.
This is a very smart move for the Post and for Baron, who’ll have the opportunity to rebuild a faded brand. Not that long ago, the New York Times and the Post were invariably mentioned in the same breath. There’s still a lot of great journalism in the Post, but the paper these days lags well behind the Times.
Brauchli, a former editor of the Wall Street Journal, got off to a rocky start at the Post. In 2009 he and then-new publisher Weymouth got embroiled in very bad idea: to put together paid “salons” featuring Post journalists, corporate executives and White House officials. As I wrote in the Guardian, there was evidence that Brauchli knew more about the salons than he was letting on.
I take Weymouth’s decision to replace Brauchli with Baron — and Baron’s decision to accept the offer — as a sign that she’s grown in the job and was able to assure Baron of it.
Baron arrived at the Globe in July 2001 to replace the retiring Matt Storin. (Here’s what I wrote about the transition for the Boston Phoenix.) Baron was executive editor of the Miami Herald before coming to the Globe, but he also had extensive experience at the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. Many observers believed his stint in Boston would be relatively short, and indeed he was considered for a top job at the Times less than two years later.
Instead, Baron ended up staying in Boston for more than 11 years, winning six Pulitzers, including the public service award in 2003 for the Globe’s coverage of the Catholic pedophile-priest scandal. He has been a solid, steady presence — a journalist with high standards who made his mark at a time when the newspaper business, including the Globe, was steadily shrinking. He also gets digital.
Last February, at an event honoring him as the recipient of the Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award, Baron told journalists they should stand up against the fear and intimidation to which they have been subjected. You’ll find the full text of his speech here, but here’s an excerpt:
In this environment, too many news organizations are holding back, out of fear — fear that we will be saddled with an uncomfortable political label, fear that we will be accused of bias, fear that we will be portrayed as negative, fear that we will lose customers, fear that advertisers will run from us, fear that we will be assailed as anti-this or anti-that, fear that we will offend someone, anyone. Fear, in short, that our weakened financial condition will be made weaker because we did something strong and right, because we simply told the truth and told it straight.
What’s good news for the Post is less than good news for the Globe. A new editor after 11 years of Baron would not necessarily be a bad thing, as every institution can benefit from change. But at this point it’s unclear who the candidates might be, and whether the next editor will come from inside or outside the Globe. And whoever gets picked will have a tough act to follow.
Baron will be a successor to the legendary Ben Bradlee and all that represents — the Pentagon Papers, Watergate and a boatload of Pulitzers. I think he was an inspired choice, and I wish him the best.
More: Peter Kadzis of The Phoenix has a must-read blog post on Baron’s departure. Great quote from an unnamed source: “On an existential level, I wonder if Marty gives a shit. He’s like a character out of Camus.”
The Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning exposé of the Catholic pedophile-priest scandal and Cardinal Bernard Law’s role in covering it up could be coming to a multiplex near you.
According to Variety, among those involved are director Tom McCarthy, whose credits include “The Station Agent” and “Win Win,” and writer Josh Singer, known for his work on “The West Wing.” McCarthy reportedly has been working on the project in secret for the past year.
“This is a story that feels like it has to be told,” McCarthy said in an interview with the Globe’s Doug Most. “It’s such a great reminder of how essential investigative journalism is today.”
The news prompted a few tweets from the Globe newsroom and beyond yesterday as staffers and former staffers speculated over which actors will play the editors and reporters who produced the ground-breaking stories.
And here’s your almost completely irrelevant link of the day: In 2003 I interviewed McCarthy (and actor Peter Dinklage) about “The Station Agent,” a romantic comedy whose leading man is a dwarf.
Jim Romenesko has posted a letter from my friend Susan Ryan-Vollmar on the Boston Phoenix’s groundbreaking work in exposing the pedophile-priest story, and on the Boston Globe’s ongoing silence about the Phoenix’s coverage, which predated the Globe’s by nearly a year.
Susan, Kristen (currently a Nieman Fellow) and I all worked at the Phoenix together and remain friends. I consider Kristen to be the finest reporter I ever worked with. Susan is a first-rate editor who did much to shape and focus Kristen’s stories. Walter Robinson, who was the Globe Spotlight team editor that covered the priest scandal, is now a valued colleague at Northeastern.
But Susan has laid down the gauntlet, and Romenesko has asked Globe editor Marty Baron to respond. This bears watching.
Here’s an inspired idea: ProPublica called up my Northeastern colleague Walter Robinson and asked him about the burgeoning pedophile-priest scandal in Europe, which is starting to rattle the papacy itself. Robinson, as I’m sure you know, headed the Boston Globe’s investigative team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for exposing Cardinal Bernard Law’s complicity in a similar scandal.
Of particular interest are Robinson’s comments about claims that Pope Benedict did not know about what was going on in Germany when he, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was the archbishop. Robinson says:
I don’t know of any archdiocese where the archbishop or the cardinal archbishop was not kept fully informed and in most cases was not heavily involved in decision-making involving any priest who was accused of abusing minors. In every diocese in the U.S., including those headed by cardinals, there was personal knowledge by the cardinal archbishop when news of abuse surfaced. It was true in Boston, it was true in L.A., it was true in Chicago.
The fact we have one archbishop in Munich that claims not to know anything is enough to make one suspicious.
And not just Europe. Today the New York Times reports that the future pope had a hand in enabling and covering up for an American priest “who molested as many as 200 deaf boys.”
To paraphrase a famous question from a different time and place: What did the pope know, and when did he know it?