Sunday, September 19, 2010

"We Did a Great Job!"


As documented on Bad Lawyer, many times over the last year, OurCounty, OurTown, and OurRegion are going through nearly identical corruption scandals as those in Cuyahoga County, Ohio and Maricopa County, Arizona and so many other places in and around Our Country.  So recently, I used the Cuyahoga County corruption scandal climax as an online avatar for what is happening in OurCounty, pointing out, among other things, the great job of reportage by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  This morning, Ted Diadium, the "Public Representative opined that the Plain Dealer did a great bit of journalism.  Um, yeah--but what about the decades of enabling and complicity, Ted?

As I pointed out in my original post, the Plain Dealer reporters whose work can be read at Cleveland.com did an awesome job of sorting out who was who, and what was what.  The journalists, undoubtedly, were a spur to federal authorities. 

Years ago I had the occasion to work with some of the reporters from the Plain Dealer, the Toledo Blade, the Boston Globe, and the Times-Picayune, and producers from Court TV, 20/20, and Sixty Minutes, and NPR--supplying news stories and background histories in the then -breaking child Sex Abuse scandal especially as it pertained to one of the real villains: A. James Quinn, an auxiliary Bishop who was at at that time the National Conference of Catholic Bishop "hit man" in the early days of the modern clergy sex abuse scandals.  As a result I gained some insight into the sausage-making that becomes a news story.  At least two of the Plain Dealer reporters who did this pioneering reportage are actively reporting on the Cuyahoga Corruption scandals.

In those years, the Plain Dealer was still shedding its patrician role as community cheerleader which meant that slowly but surely its reporters and editors were no longer acting like the monkeys that hear, see, and speak no-evil, which was exactly the opposite of the role that they played under publishers: Thomas Vail (pic, left) and Alex Machaskee (pic, right) as I pointed out last week.  And until very recently the op-ed folks were still at it, endorsing many of the very crooks at the heart of the scandals that cost the citizens of the Cuyahoga County an estimated +$100.000,000.  These publishers and their editors wanted to hobnob with the political and corporate elties that ran Cleveland and rocking the boat, any boat was the furthest thing from their mind.  The exception to this rule was when Dennis Kucinich was mayor presenting a very real threat to the status quo.   He had to be brought down, and instead of real reform the Plain Dealer and the business and Big Law elites engineered Kucinich's recall election.  While Kucinich won the skirmish, he was sent into political exile for a decade or more.

Circa the 1980s and early 1990s, the Plain Dealer reporters had a great deal of what they wrote or tried to report on the Catholic Clergy scandals either not published, or published after being hacked to pieces by editors, or hacked and buried in the inside pages.  When you consider the scale of the crimes (hundreds of victims, dozens of named perpetrators and central clergy figures up to their clerical collars in the cover up, especially) the central role that Cleveland's very own Auxiliary Bishop Quinn played in the national and international vortex of the scandal, which still resonates--it was a missed opportunity for the Plain Dealer.  In this story the Plain Dealer stood to re-establish its journalistic credibility.  Which is not that its reporters in the the trenches weren't trying to tell the story. But its basic journalistic habit of not rocking the boat means it missed the boat altogether.

Witness the fact that two reporters at the Toledo Blade--a much smaller town due west, with a clergy abuse scandal on a much smaller scale with no national or international role to report as it related, won a Pulitzer Prizes for reporter Mike Sallah's work.  Frankly, as great a job as Mike Sallah did at the Toledo Blade, the journalists, Jim McCartey and David Briggs at the Plain Dealer were much better writers in my opinion. But the Blade pulled no punches. It gave their reporters carte blanche, and prominently demanded that their local county  prosecutor demand and release records of clergy abuse in the diocese of Toledo.  This happened.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Diocese was gaming local law enforcement and law makers on a state and national scale under the noses of the Plain Dealer without a peep of protest.  You can compare and contrast the end result. 

Here's an example, the Supreme Court of Ohio justices: Terrence O'Donnell (famed of Adam Liptak's New York Times Sidebar blawg for doling out justice on the dollar) and Maureen O'Connor (Justice O'Connor may become the next Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court) gave out the St Thomas More Award to Jones Day managing partner, Patrick McCartan at the Red Mass luncheon in 2003.  What did McCartan do to deserve this honor?  He and his Big Law firm helped cover and defend the Diocese during the onset of the clergy sex abuse lawsuits in the Cleveland diocese and around the country. 

At the ceremony the Ohio Supreme Court Justices stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the already disgraced Bishop Anthony Pilla. Think this photo ran in the Plain Dealer?  Think again. 

The Guild of Catholic lawyers honored the notorious Bishop Quinn, in 2001.  Quinn, as I said is a demonstrable liar and perjurer.  He is a Canon and Ohio Civil lawyer as well.  He was the 2001 recipient of the St. Thomas More award received by the Jones Day managing partner.

The point is, the Plain Dearler, nor boy Cuyahoga County prosecutor Bill Mason could find anything wrong or connect the dots when the diocese of Cleveland was still molesting children and covering up the crimes and giving one another awards for their efforts in keeping it all nice and quiet.  Big surprise that it took years for the PD to figure out that something was amiss in Cuyahoga County government.  Although, the boy prosecutor is still unsure--meanwhile his political allies are all either pleading guilty to federal charges or awaiting trial. 

My cavil about the Plain Dealer relates to my feeling that this newspaper and many other local newspapers repeatedly failed their readership when it counts.  While the current PD is praiseworthy for ongoing reporting, the paper is seriously remiss in failing to admit their fundamental failure resulting in the perpetuation of the Cuyahoga County scandal.  They caved to the  elite religious and political leadership--and so crimes agaisnt their readership and Cuyahoga County citizens went on for decades, unreported.  If you think I'm alone in my howling protest of "public advocate" Ted Diadium's self-congratulatory column read the comments by other readers of the Plain Dealer, under Ted's column. The readers have not forgotten.  At a minimum it would be great if the Plain Dealer acknowledged that they endorsed some of these office holders, like Mason, Russo, Dimora, and the Judges that have been implicated.  Hell, Cuyahoga County voters were so disgusted with their system of government that they overwhelmingly discarded the form of government in an effort throw the bums out. 

C'mon Ted, how 'bout owning up to some responsibility?

Really, the PD needs a dose of reality.

5 comments:

  1. Hey BL,

    Did you know that Cuyahoga is some sort of Indian word meaning "crooked?" The county is named after the Cuyahoga River that divides the east side from the west side and the river has very crooked bends.

    Derek

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  2. All you haters can kiss my ass.

    Alex

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  3. Correction from someone who worked with Mike Sallah at the Toledo Blade. Mike's Pulitzer (which he shared with fellow reporter Mitch Weiss), was not for covering the church scandal, but from uncovering the war crimes that were committed by US soldiers in Vietnam, but later covered up by the Pentagon. Mike later went to The Miami Herald and led his team to win another Pulitzer for digging
    up corruption (surprise, surprise) in Miami.

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  4. Anon @ 12:32

    Thank you. Mike is a great reporter. Don't trust my memory--speaking of the Miami Herald you should have heard Bob Edwards and Carl Hiassen this AM about his new Miami Beach-based novel.
    BL

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  5. I strongly disagree with your representation of Toledo's role in the clerical sex-abuse scandal. First, the founder of the national SNAP organization is Barbara Blaine, a victim who was abused in Toledo by a Toledo priest. Secondly, the Toledo Blade's reporting on the abuse scandal led to a film crew coming to Toledo to produce what turned out to be an Academy Award-winning documentary, Twist of Faith. Cleveland's abuses never reached that kind of national stage.

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