May 22, 2005

Informing our readers means not shunning the dark facts

Modesto Bee

Last Updated: May 22, 2005, 07:55:54 AM PDT

"In a chillingly frank account, a former Roman Catholic priest who served in the Stockton Diocese recently described his decadeslong career as a pedophile, including his sexual tastes and how he groomed his young victims for abuse."
So began a story on Oliver O'Grady that ran on The Bee's front page 10 days ago.

The story went on to describe, in some detail, how O'Grady molested an estimated 25 children while serving parishes in our area.

The detail, as it turned out, was too much for some of our readers, including Linda Vermeulen of Ripon, who e-mailed us complaining not only about that story but about coverage of Michael Jackson's molestation trial as well.

"What is the purpose of such a graphic and disgusting description of (O'Grady's) molestation accounts?" Vermeulen wrote. "I was sickened as I read it, and couldn't help but wonder how this detail serves the readers of The Modesto Bee.

"The most dishonorable part of your piece was where he tells the reporter how he lures a child to come to him. I couldn't help but feel the sorrow and revulsion of the hundreds of child molestation victims who must have been reading the article in horror. Shame on you."

I'm sure many of our readers were shocked and even repulsed by O'Grady's own account as well they should have been. And, it might have opened old wounds among other readers.

Our intent in publishing the detailed account was to help readers especially parents better understand how pedophiles operate, and thus how better to protect children. The vast majority of teachers, pastors, coaches and other youth workers are good and honorable people; at the same time, there are sick and twisted people among them. Parents and children alike need to be alert. And to be alert, they need to be informed.

Posted by kshaw at May 22, 2005 11:16 AM