The St. Petersburg Times has done some in-depth reporting about the Church of Scientology that hasn’t always cast the organization in the best light, let’s say. The Times’ top brass must’ve known what they were getting into in opening that particular Pandora’s box, though, as the CoS is not known for taking criticism lying down.
In this case, the church hired three seasoned—and in a couple cases, award-winning—journalists to investigate the paper right back. This strategy didn’t go over well at the Times, but the reporters involved say they used the same objective journalistic standards they’ve always used to do their job, according to The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz.
The Washington Post via Gawker:
While the journalists have promised an independent review, the Times has refused to cooperate, saying their work will be used to fuel the church’s ongoing campaign against the Florida paper.
“I ultimately couldn’t take this request very seriously because it’s a study bought and paid for by the Church of Scientology,” says Executive Editor Neil Brown. “Candidly,” he adds, “I was surprised and disappointed that journalists who I understand to have an extensive background in investigative reporting would think it’s appropriate to ask me or our news organization to talk about that reporting while (a) it’s ongoing, and (b) while they’re being paid to ask these questions by the very subjects of our reporting.”
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.”
[...] Weinberg acknowledges that the “unusual situation” gave him pause, saying: “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.”
Vintage Scientology: CoS members in uniform congregate in this image from the St. Petersburg Times’ ongoing coverage of the controversial church.