Church Of Scientology Hires Journalists To Investigate Critical Newspaper Coverage

Categories: Media
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The Washington Post presented the latest evidence today that journalists are hard-up for jobs and cash: Three respected investigative reporters have sold their services to the Church of Scientology to pick apart the St. Petersburg Times' series of scathing investigative stories in 2009 about the church detractors call a criminal cult.

The former executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors, Steve Weinberg, told the Post that the Scientologists paid him $5,000 to edit the study: "It certainly wouldn't be something just any reporter would do. My role was more limited, and I can certainly use the money these days." Still, Weinberg said he "tried to make sure it's a good piece of journalism criticism, just like I've written a gazillion times." The other reporters who hired out their services were Pulitzer Prize-winning print reporter Russell Carollo, and Emmy-winning TV producer Christopher Szechenyi.

Weinberg noted that the contract stipulated that the church doesn't have to make the study public, but that if it does, it has to release the entire 20-page critique -- which the church's spokesman Tommy Davis told the Post was "highly critical" of St. Pete's coverage. Imagine that.

Bay Area members of the international group of Scientology detractors known as Anonymous (which we wrote about in 2008 feature stories) say the move merely shows the church's desire to manipulate any negative information about them. Anonymous has already been commenting on the Post's piece on their on-line forum Why We Protest

"I think it's a foot bullet," one local long-time Anonymous protester told the Weekly. "It's going to backfire on them, because its another thing of Scientology trying to manipulate the media, this time by co-opting the three journalists that they've hired ... [Scientology is] already coming under a lot of scrutiny for this."

So does he think time-tested reporters can produce a objective critique when paid off by the very subject of that study? "It's going to be a real test of [the hired reporters'] journalistic integrity," the protester said. We'll say.

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