Finn and the Facebook foes

In my post the other day on the indictment of a Roman Catholic bishop in Missouri, I acknowledged that I am not an expert on the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandals.

That admission on my part prompted a scolding comment (punctuated with a healthy serving of sarcasm) from a GetReligion reader:

That’s for dang sure. Indeed, your critique demonstrates that you’re not even really up to speed on the situation in KC. Have you checked out the long-running Facebook page, where his constituents are demanding his resignation over the issue?

But do carry on; it’s rather entertaining to (sic) what pundits pontificate from the perspective of ignorance. Hey, write first, investigate later. That’s…. “journalism?”

I replied that I had not checked out the Facebook page. That's not my job. My role is to critique mainstream media coverage of religion, not to do the reporting myself. Certainly, I could "dang sure" do a better job of that sometimes.

But now, thanks to an Associated Press follow-up story on the case of Bishop Robert Finn, I have checked out the Facebook page — assuming it's the one to which the reader referred. That's because the AP story referenced the page up high. The top of the report:

Calls for Roman Catholic Bishop Robert Finn to resign started even before last week, when he became the highest-ranking church leader in the sex abuse scandal criminally charged with sheltering an accused priest.

The bishop of Kansas City, Mo., had acknowledged in May that he waited five months to tell police about the hundreds of images of alleged child pornography found on the Rev. Shawn Ratigan's computer. Ratigan had taken some of the photos of girls months ago at an Easter party he hosted, investigators said. More than 700 people have joined a Facebook page called "Bishop Finn Must Go."

As I type this, 784 Facebook users have clicked "like" on the "Bishop Finn Must Go" page.

At this rate, that page someday may eclipse the 836 Facebook users who "know someone with smelly feet."

It may take a while before either page catches up with the 5,498,400 Facebook users who like Ozzy Osbourne or the 4,657,773 Facebook users — including myself — who like Chick-fil-A. 

But back to journalism: At what point should a major news organization — say the AP, whose news reaches half the world's population on any given day — give serious credence to a Facebook petition? Should we expect breaking news soon on an epidemic of Americans who know people with smelly feet?

In the case of the story referenced, the AP story gives no other details on the Facebook page. For example, if it's a serious opposition force against the bishop (whose public-figure Facebook page is liked by 1,219 users as of this moment), shouldn't the page administrator be quoted? Shouldn't some evidence be given that the people liking the page are actually parishioners of Finn's diocese?

At the very least, shouldn't at least one individual be quoted — by name and not vague reference to Facebook — who wants the bishop gone?

By the way, feel free to "like" the GetReligion Facebook page if you get a chance. We're only a few fans (or a few zillion) away from reaching Ozzy status. And unlike Chick-fil-A, we're open on Sundays.

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