Three Cheers for the Boston Globe Paul Corrigan
Three cheers for the Boston Globe: Hip-Hip, Hooray! Hip-Hip, Hooray! Hip-Hip, Hooray!
Massachusetts has something to celebrate. It is time for Boston Mayor Tom Menino to arrange for a parade through the streets of Boston and a rally at City Hall Plaza. No, there should be three simultaneous parades: the first should stretch from Plymouth to Boston, the second from Framingham to Boston, and the third from Gloucester to Boston. Each route should be lined with parents, young and old, alongside their children. The crowds should stand up and cheer. Church bells should ring. Confetti should be thrown from tall buildings. Federal, state, and local politicians from all political parties should come out in enthusiastic support. The event should be covered by national television. Beer and truck commercials should feature the heroes of this story. Hollywood should be producing a blockbuster that combines the triumph of Erin Brockovich and the political intrigue of The Insider. The Pope should come to Boston. The "extraordinary cloak of secrecy" has been broken. Reporters at the Boston Globe stood up to one of the most powerful institutions in the United States, the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and did what investigative journalists do best. They told the truth and shamed the devil.
The devil wore the garb of Roman Catholic priests and that of the most powerful Cardinal in America. Some committed the horrible crimes, and others covered them up. Both are equally guilty. The Boston Globe Spotlight Team broke the legal seal that had kept the ugliest of secrets hidden. Victims, mostly working class boys, had the courage to speak. The heavy burdens of fear, intimidation, and shame have been lifted. At a time when media consolidation and shareholder values have castrated investigative journalism and promoted media celebrity over content, the Globe Spotlight Team taught everyone in the media a lesson. Journalism not only can serve the common good it must serve the common good if we are to pass on a better world to our children.
Sexual molestation of young children by Roman Catholic priests within the Archdiocese of Boston has been rampant. The Church responded, not by taking action to protect the children, but by taking legal action to protect itself. Cardinal Law, the Church hierarchy, and their lawyers settled child molestation claims against priests and had any court records sealed. Most cases of molestation were hidden from the authorities. Common sense indicates that there should be no doubt that most cases of sexual abuse of children by priests and clergy went unreported, never disclosed to a parent or friend. The first dominos fell in Massachusetts. Now they are falling in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and other states. The word is out.
I hope that investigative journalists like Bob Woodward, who first reported along with Carl Bernstein a cancer on the American presidency only to become in recent years a talking head, will look in the mirror and challenge themselves to exhibit the type of courage that should win Walter Robinson and his team at the Globe a Pulitzer Prize. I have a dream that the Globe's parent, the New York Times, gets the message that a great paper tells the toughest stories. I have a dream that facelifts and fights over celebrity outings will be replaced in television news divisions with in-depth reporting and documentaries. Americans are starving for the truth. If the media is watching and listening, the message from the American public should be clear. We want the truth and nothing but the truth. We will believe the truth. We will dismiss lies and witch-hunts. Despite repeated charges of being anti-Catholic by Cardinal Law and the former Boston Mayor and Ambassador to the Vatican, Ray Flynn, the Globe did its job. In the end, the people of Boston and Massachusetts believed the truth and believed the Globe. When the press jumped onboard the political assassination of Bill Clinton, Americans dismissed the distortion and supported Clinton. An idealistic and vigilant press would restore the fourth estate to its position as the primary check and balance on a political and economic system whose leaders all too often lie, cheat, and steal to advance their own personal interests against the common good.
Like the settlements arranged by the Archdiocese and their lawyers, what goes on in corporate boardrooms and government offices remain all too secret. Our leaders tell us to "trust but verify" when it comes to international relations. They tell us to "watch our wallet" when the opposing political party is in charge. When they are in charge we are told to trust them. Sorry, they have not earned that trust. The privileges and privacy that they claim are ruses to cover up the truth. It is time that we opened up our political and financial institutions to more scrutiny. Walter Robinson and the Globe Spotlight team are ready to take on the next assignment. Alas, not too many others in the media appear are up to the job.
As long as rehashing sensational stories like the Simpson, Ramsey, and Condit scandals are more profitable than exposing systemic and institutional corruption, Americans will continue to be fed a steady diet of junk media. Despite all the noise, real journalists can still do their job. Like most good work, it will not be the most profitable, just the most satisfying.
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