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Movie sure to get story wrong

November 12, 2015
James O. Clifford Sr.
Redwood City

Remember that you heard it here first: A new movie about the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal is sure to get the story wrong. I know the story behind the story, which is more about the church and contemporary news reporting than it is about sex abuse. I was with The Associated Press when this broke.

The movie is “Spotlight.” The focus is on The Boston Globe’s alleged breaking of sex abuse in the church.

The National Catholic Reporter reported on predator priests as early as 1983. The Mercury’s Carl Cannon won honors for his 1985 story, which was the first to put a true “spotlight” on the scandal.

The church scandal is a prime example of Oz reporting in which you pay no attention to the man behind the curtain even though you know something is wrong. I knew something was wrong a few weeks after AP picked up the Mercury story. An education group met in San Francisco and one of its papers had to do with sex abuse in public schools. I figured it would be as well covered as the church story. It wasn’t. Later Education Week did a largely ignored series on school sex abuse called “Passing the Trash” about offending teachers being moved from one school to another. It wasn’t until 2010 that AP got around to doing a series on sex abuse in schools. Few newspapers ran it.

The media is part of the cover-up. It’s simply not doing its job. 

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