Scientology hires Pulitzer and Emmy winners
Howard Kurtz, in the Washington Post, reports that the cult hired Steve Weinberg, the former executive director of non-profit Investigative Reporters and Editors, Russell Carollo, who won a Pulitzer in 1998 for a series on medical malpractice that appeared in the Daily News of Dayton, Ohio, and Christopher Szechenyi, an Emmy-winning former TV producer. (They possibly saw this job advertisement.)
I am so disappointed that a former executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors associated himself with Scientology.
IRE is the premiere professional organization for investigative journalism. (I'm a proud member.)
The defining moment in IRE's history was the 1976 murder Don Bolles of the Arizona Republic. After Bolles' death, his IRE colleagues threw themselves into the Arizona Project, a massive collaborative investigation to expose organized crime in Arizona. I mention this because it exemplifies core values of IRE: investigative journalists working together for justice.
Obviously, it's no reflection on IRE that its former executive director went on to work with Scientology.
It's just sad and ironic that Steve Weinberg chose to help Scientology investigate other journalists, namely reporters at the St. Petersberg Times. The paper won a Pulitzer Prize for its critical coverage of Scientology.
Weinberg told Howie Kurtz that the Scientology gig was just a job like any other.
Steve Weinberg, the former IRE executive, who has taught at the University of Missouri's journalism school for a quarter-century, says he was paid $5,000 to edit the study and "tried to make sure it's a good piece of journalism criticism, just like I've written a gazillion times. . . . For me it's kind of like editing a Columbia Journalism Review piece."
He says their agreement requires that the church publish the study in full, if it decides to make it public, but that "the contract says the church has the right to do nothing with it except put it in a drawer." That means Scientology leaders have an out if the recently completed study isn't to their liking. [WaPo]
This report is nothing like a piece for the Columbia Journalism Review. It's a weapon in Scientology's war against its critics, and it's naive or disingenuous to pretend otherwise.
Now, Scientology can spin the report any way it wants, or bury it, and say that prize-winning investigative journalists signed off on it. They bought Weinberg's seal of approval for a mere $5000.
Scientology is taking a page out of the corporate playbook: loosely associating itself with independent experts in order to piggyback on their prestige. Big Pharma loves to recruit famous doctors and researches to give this kind of "independent" advice. Nobody tells the doctors what to say, but the company always gets the final cut. Whatever the advisers say can and will be used to hype the drug. If a doctor believes this is a great drug that will help lots of people, she may not mind being used in a commercial. That excuse doesn't work for Scientology.
IRE stands for transparency and the search for truth. Scientology is the anti-IRE.
The "church" is notorious for digging up dirt on its critics and hounding them mercilessly. There's a reason why the Anonymous anti-Scientology protesters won't show their faces.
Scientology wants to destroy these reporters and Weinberg is helping them do it.