Trust me, I know what it's like to be a reporter who has to call people who you already know do not want to talk to you. I mean, I am so old I worked the Godbeat in the 1980s, the era of the great televangelist scandals.
But way back then, journalists had a way of letting readers know that the newsroom tried to give people a chance to respond to their critics, to tell their side of complicated stories. Reporters would call and call and call. You might even knock on someone's door.
Finally, you'd have to put a statement in the story that said something like, "Leaders of the so-and-so group declined repeated requests for interviews." Sometimes, you could even quote a source saying that they didn't want to talk.
Now, this brings us to a strange story from Guam, of all places, care of the Pacific News Center (which appears, from its website, to have a working relationship with ABC News and, thus, the Disney empire). The headline: "The Vatican failed to submit a comprehensive report to the UN by the Sept. 1 deadline." I don't do this often, but here is 90 percent of this short report:
Guam -- As sexual assault cases against the Archdiocese of Agana continue to increase, it appears that the Vatican has found itself in trouble with the United Nations.
Three years ago, the Vatican was called to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child which begged the Vatican to take concrete steps to remedy decades of institutional complicity and cover-up of widespread sexual violence.
September 1, 2017 marked the deadline for the Vatican to submit a comprehensive report on their progress, but the Vatican did not submit the report.
According to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Holy See was provided with committee recommendations aimed at ensuring the protection of children from sexual violence, however the Vatican has not implemented any of those recommendations. ...
While CCR staff attorney Pam Spees stated, “Church officials are quick to decry efforts to hold them accountable as scapegoating or anti-Catholic sentiment and deflect by pointing to instances of sexual violence in other religious contexts.”
Both SNAP and CCR in a report to the UN argue “that the Holy See has not made substantial progress in genuinely acknowledging, internalizing and implements the full range of policies and practices that would center children’s best interest and protect them against sexual violence.”
Like I said, this is a very short report. However, there is an interesting hole in this story (a hole I did not create with my one edit). Spot it?
Note the lack of any quotes from:
* The Vatican.
* Legal representatives of the church, at any level.
* The local archdiocese in which this newsroom is located.
* Conservative Catholics who are highly critical of how many church officials have handled clergy-abuse cases.
(My own views on the subject of sexual abuse of children and teens by clergy have been stated here often. Let's just say that the word "millstone" is involved.)
Now maybe, just maybe, PNC journalists attempted to interview some of these rather logical sources on this topic. Maybe these sources declined. If that is the case, that's when readers need -- in print -- a statement that attempts were made to add accuracy and balance to the story. Right?
After all, Pacific News Center professionals have pledged:
We believe in news that's fair, balanced, ethical, truthful and meaningful. At PNC, we always strive to bring you the news that you deserve as a community to make informed decisions that will help shape our future for the better.
Of course, that's just one newsroom, far away in Guam, writing about this same hot-button subject. Surely the Pacific Daily News -- part of the USA Today network -- would do better?
OK, check out this longer story. Please click and scan it all.
Yes, we have more quotes from SNAP and the CCR team is involved again. That is appropriate.
However, see anything missing from this news story?