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Article about CoS hiring Investigative Journalists


Patron with Honors
I find this move by Tommy hilarious, common sense should tell him that he is just enticing more people to seek out and read the St. Petes articles about the church.

Thank you Tommy for the great PR!! :D


Scientology Hires Reporters to "investigate" media outlet

Is this a serious ethics breach? Yes:

"The Church of Scientology is deploying a new weapon in its three-decade battle with the St. Petersburg Times: award-winning investigative journalists.

Those reporters completed their own review of the newspaper's coverage of Scientology, but church officials won’t release it.

In 1980, The St. Petersburg Times won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the secretive religion, headquartered in Clearwater. Since then, church officials have said the newspaper’s coverage is unfair.

So church officials decided to do something about it, according to spokesman Tommy Davis.

“To be honest, I think we just took a playbook from the media,” Davis said. “Media pay reporters all the time to investigate things.

“So we thought it warranted some investigation, and so we hired some reporters to investigate. It’s pretty straightforward, in that regard,” he said.

Those reporters are Christopher Szechenyi, an Emmy-winning television producer from Boston, and Russell Carollo, a Colorado-based reporter who won a Pulitzer for uncovering medical malpractice in the military."

More from an earlier Howard Kurtz report:

"Asked about Brown's view that the study could not possibly be objective, Davis says: "It's easy for the St. Pete Times to pop off and say that, but oh, please. It's a normal thing. It's done all the time." He likened the effort to CBS hiring an outside panel to investigate Dan Rather's 2004 story on George W. Bush and the National Guard, which the network later retracted. That report was a self-examination, however, and was made public.

The reporters hired for the study are Russell Carollo, who won a 1998 Pulitzer for Dayton, Ohio's Daily News for a series on medical malpractice in the U.S. military, and Christopher Szechenyi, an Emmy-winning former television producer who has worked for the Boston Globe's Web site.

Asked about taking on the assignment, the two chose to respond in a joint statement Sunday. "We were hesitant," they said. "That's why we insisted on being paid in full before we started our work, total editorial independence and having someone with the reputation of Steve Weinberg involved. Every entity has the right to receive fair treatment in the press."

As for accepting payment from the church, they said: "We were as objective in doing this job as we were in pursuing all the other assignments we've done for news organizations during the past 25 years."

Here is the obvious flaw in the argument that getting paid by an organization is the same thing as getting paid by a media outlet. The flaw in such an argument is a straw-man which falsely places a media outlet and a church (or cult) on the same level in terms of agenda, responsibility, and ethical obligations. They are not.

A church (or cult) is an agenda-driven body, self-promoting and protecting its interests, and has no ethical obligation to the truth or to the public. A news media outlet is (unless it is Fox News) an entirely different animal. It has an ethical obligation to the truth and to the public.

A news publication takes on great responsibility, while being bound by strict ethics, which trumps all other considerations. For example, a reporter who fabricates a story for a publication will not only discredit themselves, but will also tarnish the reputation of the publication. Yet a publication is still ethically obligated to make public what the reporter has done despite how this will make them look.

Getting paid by a news outlet to cover news ethically is not the same thing as getting paid by the subject of a story to cover that story.

The Church of Scientology should have hired researchers and/or investigators, but not journalists. As soon as those reporters took many from the Church to work on this story, they became compromised. As soon as those reporters agreed to sign a contract where their reporting becomes the property of the subject of their story, they have been compromised.

Russell Carollo, Christopher Szechenyi, and even Steve Weinberg crossed the line. The Church is now peddling the so-called findings in an attack on the The St. Petersburg Times, but not releasing the actual findings. Why?

The reporters cannot discuss the actual findings either as they are contractually bound. How is that honest or even journalism? It is not.

I urge anyone who has access to this report to leak it in full to a legitimate journalist. Make this an actual news report, rather than a privately funded propaganda tool.

I also strongly believe that the Church has crossed the line in this. Had they hired researchers and made the report public, they would have had my full support if the findings showed media bias.

Consider what the Church did instead:

* Targeted The St. Petersburg Times as being biased, but needed proof (so the targeting came before the evidence)
* So they hired journalists, but gagged them contractually
* The journalists reported not to the public, but to the Church
* Then the Church made the rounds, claiming that the report shows media bias as they had suspected
* But the Church won't release the report which they are claiming proves their allegations

So who has the negative agenda here, the St. Pete's Times or the Church of Scientology?

What the Church did is underhanded, dishonest, and sleazy, proving once again that the Church of Scientology has no interest in the truth, only in their version of it. The journalists involved in this should make public the findings, despite their contractual obligations - because the ethical obligations trump all other considerations. That would be journalism. Taking a check from the subject of your story and agreeing to sign over your ethical obligations as a journalist is what PR hacks, propagandists, and tabloid writers do.

I am a big fan of St. Petersburg Times. This drama has only strengthened my respect for the publication.The Church's behavior, however, has undermined whatever media bias it was trying to expose. At this point, their argument is moot.


Gold Meritorious Patron
How to deal with Scientologist

This is how professional journalist deal with Scientologist: "we insisted on being paid in full before we started our work." :coolwink: