March 04, 2005

Northern Exposure

Orange County Weekly


On Jan. 3, the Diocese of Orange settled 87 sex-abuse claims for $100 million, the largest settlement of its kind in the Roman Catholic Church’s 2,000-year history. It was then, and perhaps only then, that readers of The Orange County Register finally realized the scope of the scandal: in the past year, Orange County’s paper of record left the investigations and breaking stories to the Weekly and William Lobdell of the Los Angeles Times, contenting itself with press-release rewrites and press-conference coverage. Emblematic of the Register’s coverage was a Dec. 5 person-in-the-pew story, in which reporter Greg Hardesty spotlighted Catholics who blamed the scandal on the “liberal elite.”

But now, at last, the Register has focused its mighty resources on the scandal . . . in Alaska.

In a Sunday, Feb. 27, front-page story, Register reporters Chris Knap, Rachanee Srisavadasi and Tony Saavedra spent 1,897 words retelling the horrors of the Diocese of Fairbanks, where 58 people have filed claims against priests. The local hook was John Manly, a Costa Mesa attorney who represented 30 Orange diocese victims and is now helping Alaska attorneys file civil suits and depose church leaders. But this is the same John Manly who earned the nickname “Mad Dog” by insisting Orange Bishop Tod D. Brown release all priestly personnel files—a bit of trivia glossed over by Knap, Srisavadasi and Saavedra.

So why would the Register put three reporters on a Catholic Church sex-abuse story far, far away while continuing to steadfastly ignore the hometown fiasco in the Diocese of Orange?

Posted by kshaw at March 4, 2005 02:30 PM