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February 22, 2010

Scientology hires Pulitzer and Emmy winners

Via Gawker:

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. 


There are those who think that a good reputation has no value unless you cash in on it. Weinberg is apparently one of them. Yous ee that a lot in politics -- the 30-year-old idealist turns into the 60-year-old influence peddler.

Is Weinberg a member of Scientology?

I always thought those scumbags used blackmail to get people to do things for them.

I don't know anything about Weinberg's spiritual life, but I doubt he's a member. Sounds like he's valuable to them precisely because he's an outsider.

Serious journalism has been in trouble in this country for a while, this is just another symptom.

Perhaps it's a symptom that will spur the industry into action and self-regulation. Perhaps not.

Sounds like he sold out.

""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."

I don't get it. Is Weinberg inferring that the other corporations that are the subject of his news stories also pay him money up front for those stories? "Unbaised," such as this contrived explaination?

Ironic indeed, given that the COS has historically attacked honest journalists for reporting the truth. (google operation "freakout". Is Weinberg attempting to undo all the good he has ostensibly done with IRE, or was he a poser to begin with?

The St. Petersburg Times has written many pieces on the church of Scientology. To a point that they border not necessarily on news, but some sort of infatuation. It'll be interesting to see how this pans out. I for one don't mind the lens going back the other way.

@ Monty,

In my mind Germany has the right idea: make it a policy to constantly harass this bullying cult.

What I don't understand is why celebrities like Tom Cruise and Beck and John Travolta become paid members. Do the pressures of fame drive them insane?

It's the "Dayton Daily News". Used to live there.

Wow, no scientology defenses yet here. And I'm sure not one.

When are they going to get blown out of the water? Isn't the writing on the wall. How many outspoken defectors do other major religions have? Isn't the testimony of about 20 former sea org members enough. Why is our gov't so slow to investigate these idiots. Australia is working on it arent' they? These people are tax exempt? Their sales people make a COMMISION on the garbage they peddle!! That isn't legal is it?!?I could go on and on....

Scientology has proven time and time again,they attack the critic they will stop at nothing to bully and browbeat a critic into submission
Yet their own publications are filled with little substance,just slick cult promotions
Journalistic Integrity is a lost art. its time for journalists around the world to take on the "Beast" that is Scientology. and show the journalistic community hasn't lost all its integrity.

"I for one don't mind the lens going back the other way."

LOL. Who cares about the Scientology purchased story? That they bolster themselves by announcing they are "unbiased" doesn't help, it actually hurts, given the $5k they each got.

While there are still investigative reporters, investigative reporting from major news organizations is virtually dead. That's the real crime.


We are not going to see any legislation or other action against COS as a religion - certainly, not like that seen in Germany and elsewhere. In the U.S., almost all major religions (the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, for example) support the COS's legal distinction as a religion. This is done purely on grounds of principle. The COS does what almost all other religions do. They provide their followers with answers to three fundamental questions: 1. From where did I come? 2. Why am I here? To where am I going?

In this sense, we really should not be legislating against them or taking action, except for specific violations of law that has nothing to do with religious organization or practice.

"This is the correct procedure: Spot who is attacking us. Start investigating them promptly for felonies or worse using our own professionals, not outside agencies. Double curve our reply by saying we welcome an investigation of them. Start feeding lurid, blood sex crime actual evidence on the attackers to the press. Don’t ever tamely submit to an investigation of us. Make it rough, rough on attackers all the way."

---L. Ron Hubbard, Hubbard Communications Office Policy Letter, 25 February 1966
"When we need somebody haunted we investigate…When we investigate we do so noisily always."

---L. Ron Hubbard, MANUAL OF JUSTICE, 1959
"The DEFENSE of anything is UNTENABLE. The only way to defend anything is to ATTACK, and if you ever forget that, then you will lose every battle you are ever engaged in, whether it is in terms of personal conversation, public debate, or a court of law. NEVER BE INTERESTED IN CHARGES. DO, yourself, much MORE CHARGING, and you will WIN."

--L. Ron Hubbard, Ability Mag Article (page 47 Tech Vol. III)

Basically, Weinberg and friends are helping the COS fair game the St. Petersberg Times for $15k.

Five grand? This guy sold his reputation for a measly five grand? I mean, c'mon, pal -- if you're going over to the dark side, make it a big score. Not that I approve at all of selling out. Scientology ruins lives.

Sounds like a disappointing sellout - and as Hudson notes, not for much.

I applaud these three journalists. This is true independent, transparent and competent investigative reporting. No wonder the biased media screams!

It's not transparent at all. Scientology reserves the right to suppress the report.

How do you know whether it's competent? Have you read the report?


When it’s their turn to be written about, media honchos believe that turnabout is NOT fair play by the immortal Catherine Seipp seems apropos, even though it was written in 1997.

“No one is more thin-skinned than the media. No one.”


“Members of the press are usually also deeply committed members of the can-dish-it-out-but-can’t-take-it club. ”


“…the media, who have the last word as a matter of course and are furious whenever someone takes it away. This is regarded as a dastardly violation of professional courtesy.”

If you are "disappointed" you don't get something about objective investigative journalism. It does not matter who pays you. What matters is if you can keep your objectivity. There are too many journalists are just too numb to be investigators. Nobody better than Steve Weinberg could have gotten the job. The question is rather "How come that Scientology hired him and not a spin-doctor?".

i) Because Weinberg's a brand name, ii) Because Scientology likes objective truth just fine when they want to blackmail someone.

The "church" didn't promise to publish the report in full no matter what the conclusions. That's what true independence would look like. Weinberg gave them permission to bury the report. He gave them veto power over whatever he wrote. Of course, Scientology will keep bragging about the report and its famous editor no matter what they do with it.

Ethically, I have a problem with any journalist doing anything to help Scientology because Scientology has fought an all-out war against journalism and free speech for decades. If you want to be a mercenary and sell your skills to the highest bidder, go into private intelligence work. Don't call yourself a journalist.

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