Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rare sighting of responsible journalism

I know...I'm on a break. But this, from the New York Daily News, should be published as widely as possible, I think:

It has become an increasingly prevailing belief that as a cardinal, before he ascended to the papacy, Pope Benedict enabled a pedophile priest to do enormous harm. This is false.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd took the accusations against the Pope, whose given name is Joseph Ratzinger, to their most extreme. She wrote:

"Now we learn the sickening news that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, nicknamed 'God's Rottweiler' when he was the church's enforcer on matters of faith and sin, ignored repeated warnings and looked away in the case of the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, a Wisconsin priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys."

Again, and with certainty: This is false. [...]

While the Murphy case does exemplify the church at its worst, the grievous sins in this matter cannot be laid to Pope Benedict.

For 24 years starting in 1950, Murphy served as a priest at a school for deaf boys in Milwaukee. He was first accused of molesting students in the 1950s, and he was trailed by similar accounts until the church forced him onto "temporary sick leave." His superiors did not report Murphy to the police or take further internal action.

Those crimes, dating back half a century, took place decades before Ratzinger rose to high church positions in Europe. He could not have ignored repeated warnings, nor could he have looked away. He not on the scene at all.

Read the whole thing.

It's nice to see a newspaper doing some actual, responsible journalism for once, the kind of thing that the New York Times used to do. Somewhere along the way, maybe somewhere between the Jayson Blair matter and the present day, the Times appears to have decided that "fake but close enough so long as it furthers our agenda" was a good enough definition of journalism--none of that bothersome detail work like construction of timelines and verification of accuracy is needed, apparently, so long as the headlines sell enough papers.

But the New York Daily News is nailing the Times on this one, and rightly so. It's nice to see. From where I stand, the Gray Lady could use a little lesson in the basics of reporting--unless a new tabloid-based model of "journalism" is going to be the old gal's new standard.

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