Sunday, September 25, 2005

Operation Rowback Continues

Buona domenica a tutti!

For the third day running, the Philadelphia Inquirer has maintained its regimen of epic penance for the Friday headline that turned the newsroom on its head: "Don't Read Report, Cardinal Says."

To recap, this all stems from the report of the grand jury investigating clergy sex abuse here, which was issued on Wednesday. In a Thursday afternoon interview with the paper, Cardinal Justin Rigali said that the report wasn't "of value to families," the line which begat the Friday banner sprawled across the top of its front page.

By mid-afternoon Friday, the Inquirer recrafted the headline and lead paragraph, issued a one-paragraph correction and published the text of the relevant exchange between Rigali and Inky reporter David O'Reilly, a correction which ran on the front page of yesterday's paper.

And today, we have a piece on yet another interview with the Cardinal, conducted yesterday. The man's done more media-time in four days than in the whole of his two years here as Archbishop of Philadelphia.

"I never said people shouldn't read the grand jury report," Rigali said in a brief telephone interview.

A front-page headline in Friday's Inquirer that read "Don't Read Report, Rigali Says" was a "great blow to me," and the story incorrectly summarized his views, he said.

Amazingly, thanks to the Friday headline, the archdiocese has succeeded at turning this on its head -- from scathing revelations on sex abuse and allegations of cover-up to putting the press on the defensive vis a vis accuracy and balance.

Media scholars, take note.

But the Inky could've defused a lot of this at the outset by immediately running the full transcript of the Thursday interview. Even though we're seeing a lot of print press get watered down in these days, the beauty of the Internet and a more discerning news audience is that the C-SPAN element of unfiltered, complete coverage is ever becoming more the norm than the exception.

Given the magnitude of this event, the high tensions running on all sides and the particular urgency of accuracy here, this is one of those situations where the audience should be given the benefit of seeing everything, and making a decision based on the complete record and what they choose to view, as opposed to having things held back.

Fortunately, it's not too late. The full transcript -- of both interviews, now -- would be most welcome and a valuable aid.



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