Editor Mike Myer asks: “If Bransfield did all these things for so long, how did he get away with it?”
Yes, it’s a clueless question from the editor of a newspaper that brags daily on its masthead that it has “stood guard for 166 years against predatory interests which would violate civil rights.”
Here’s my answer to Myer’s question: because those who had the power and the microphone (the Catholic Church, local media, and law enforcement) chose not to investigate.
Myer rightly questions the diocese but that is as far as he goes. I’m sure he, like anyone in the area who does not live under a rock, has heard rumors about some of Bransfield’s action in the 13 years that Bransfield has served the diocese. But, as one of the few institutions that had the ability to investigate and bring to light the wrongdoing in the Catholic Church, Ogden Newspapers have clearly given Bransfield a free pass.
Newspapers elsewhere, when faced with church abuse, have done their job. The most publicized was the Boston Globe’s investigation into clergy abuse in 2002 which was later made into a film (Spotlight). Most recently, the Houston Chronicle published a 6-part series examining abuse in the Southern Baptist Church. Okay, Ogden has neither the money, manpower, nor resources that allowed those larger papers to assign a team of reporters to investigate. But it could assign a reporter to work on the project in addition to his/her regular duties. (This is what the Charleston Gazette-Mail (a similarly sized newspaper) did with Eric Eyre who eventually won the Pulitzer Prize for his investigative reporting on West Virginia’s opioid crisis.) Ogden, however, doesn’t want to investigate anything; preferring simple stories that neither question hierarchies nor provide much depth in coverage – i.e. cheap news (you don’t need to pay many reporters for that). When other news sources do investigate and report those abuses, Ogden simply summarizes what they reported usually giving us the “Readers Digest” version. (See Thursday’s coverages of the Bransfield stories.)
Today’s front page, for example, featured a Bransfield story that first told us local Catholics have faith in God not Bransfield (nothing new or surprising there) and then briefly reviewed what the reader probably already knew about the Bransfield story. (The “Weekly Reader” version of their previous “Readers Digest” version.) In addition to the Bransfield article, another story told us that the YMCA was giving an award to Dr. Gregory Merrick. Two fluff stories rounded-out the front page: one on a local strawberry festival and another on a local 5K race. All were easy to do with a minimal staff; news on the cheap.
Later this summer, the Intelligencer will publish its annual self-congratulatory editorial on the anniversary of its founding. Perhaps it will elaborate on how it has “stood guard against predatory interests” like Bransfield's which would be the embodiment of "predatory." I wouldn’t bet on it, however.