[FOUNTAIN]The power of the pressRoman Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Boston sexually abused more than 100 boys during a span of three decades. The archdiocese knew of the abuse but did little to stop it.
On Jan. 6, 2002, readers picking up the Boston Globe were outraged by an article on the front page detailing the abuse. About half of Boston’s 4 million people are Roman Catholic. In a community with that kind of religious makeup, the Globe article, which began the uncovering of widespread sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic church, was considered a challenge to sanctity.
After the story ran, angry parishioners jammed Globe telephone lines with complaints. The Roman Catholic church strongly objected to the reporting. The Globe was about to face a boycott and financial upheaval. But with a series of follow-up stories that unraveled the scandal further by a determined staff, the angry complaints turned into recognition and praise. Influenced in part by the Globe’s work, reports about secretive sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests in other parts of the United States and in Australia, Germany and elsewhere ensued. Pope John Paul II cast the guilty priests as falling to a “mystery of evil” and said the church shows “concern for the victims and strives to respond in truth and justice to each of these painful situations.” That response showed that even a regional newspaper can reach across the ocean to the Vatican.
The April issue of the American Journalism Review featured an article about the Globe’s series. Many parents of the victims had sued the Archdiocese of Boston in 1998. The media at the time gave in to the church’s request to keep the trial records confidential and kept their silence. But when Martin Baron became editor of the Globe, he started to think differently. In effect, he decided to mount a challenge against one of the most sacred authorities in the city. The Globe’s investigative reporting team worked under his direction for months. For that effort, the Globe earned the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for meritorious public service.
At times, newspaper articles can be more powerful than court rulings and can be more interesting to read than novels.
The Globe’s coverage was an example of investigative reporting at its very best. But it worked because the pope decided to respond to the report. When we see the Korean government’s policy on the media, it makes us feel uneasy because it is focused on countering how the media works.
by Lee Gyu-yun
The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.