Scientologists Hire Famed Reporters to Investigate Enemies

February 22, 2010


According to the Washington Post , the Church of Scientology has hired three famed reporters to "investigate" the St. Petersburg Times.  The Scientologists’ actions appear to be in response to the Florida paper’s ongoing investigation into the Church of Scientology’s activities.  Three decades ago the Times won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the church, based in nearby Clearwater, Florida.  The church’s magazine, Freedom , has repeatedly assail the Times and other properties owned by its corporate parent, calling them "Merchants of Chaos."

The Scientologists have hired Steve Weinberg, the former executive director of non-profit Investigative Reporters and Editors; Russell Carollo, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1998 for a series of articles on medical malpractice in the U.S. military; and Christopher Szechenyi, an Emmy-winning former TV producer of "60 Minutes."  Weinberg told the Washington Post he was paid $5,000 to edit a study of the Times and "tried to make sure it’s a good piece of journalism criticism, just like I’ve written a gazillion times."  Weinberg stated that his agreement with the church requires that the church publish the study in full — IF it decides to make it public.  But "the contract says the church has the right to do nothing with it except put it in a drawer."  Scientology leaders therefore can choose not to release the report if its conclusions are not to their liking.

The St. Petersburg Times has refused to cooperate with the reporters’ investigation, saying the church will use its findings in an ongoing campaign against the paper.  Executive Editor Neil Brown told the Washington post that "I ultimately couldn’t take this request very seriously because it’s a study bought and paid for by the Church of Scientology. . . . 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."