Tuesday, July 17, 2007

An investigative reporter's notebook

IT'S ONE OF the most thankless jobs in any profession. Long sleepless hours, sometimes hunched over a computer with a cold cup of coffee, a phone stuck in the ear and scribbled notes in some kind of "foreign" language, which only a seasoned investigative reporter might decipher.
Two scribblers -- Michael Paulson and Jason Berry -- have earned even the briefest mention for their dogged pursuit of a story, which involved the scandal surrounding the Boston diocese and tainted priests, John Geohagen and James Porter.
And just when that scandal seemed to fade, this week, a judge in Los Angeles agreed to a $660 million payoff concerning clergy sex abuse in that diocese.
Geoghan, who during a 30-year career allegedly sexually abused some 130 people, and, finally, in 2002, was sentenced to nine to 10 years in prison for fondling a young boy at a swimming pool, according to Thomas Pierce's report in NPR. While Geohagen was awaiting a further trial, he was strangled and stomped to death while in so-called protective custody.
Porter allegedly molested some 125 children. He would die of cancer while serving a 20-year prison sentence.
Cardinal Bernard Law, the former archbishop of Boston, apparently shuffled accused priests and he quit in 2002 and now lives in Rome, overseeing one of the basilicas.
Although monetary punishment has been meted out in Los Angeles, with Cardinal Roger Mahony, offering some kind of an apology, the pain and suffering of these "survivors" will remain forever.
It's rare than investigative journalists such as those forementioned in Boston or Los Angeles are recognized for their "digging, " but they should be. The same holds true for Brian Ross and his group as well as Kevin Sites along with Max Haines, whom I consider the greatest of them all.
Haines has now, basically, retired to "smell the roses," but during his tenure with the Toronto Sun, I was privileged to be his editor, which meant I changed a few commas in his Crime Flashback columns, for his copy was always superb.
This fellow Nova Scotian showed he could mix wit and wisdom in his columns and also assisted me in my pursuit as an ID* Investigative Day columnist.
I also had my run-in with a wayward minister with a Pentecostal background, and his "sins" of the flesh led to his dismissal and a paperback in the 1990s called "Betrayal."
Then Haines was generous with his words in the introduction to another investigative paperback called "The Rassler Papers," now an e-book called "Counterfeit Hero."
This was Haines' introduction:
"The Villainous Viking has crafted a winner. Who but respected journalist Kaye Corbett, once known as the Villainous One himself, could bring the reader into the inner circle of wrestling, After reading 'Counterfeit Hero' you will never view the grunt-and-groan boys in the same light again.
Corbett reveals the inner workings of the World Wrestling Federation with special emphasis on its kingpin, Vince McMahon. He reviews the checkered history of McMahon and his wrestling heroes, who have been portrayed with publicity expertise as either clean-living lily whites or lovable monsters. Corbett exposes the chinks in the armour of the game itself, exposing the influence that anabolic steroids have had on athletes. In addition, he documents child sex abuse within the sport, which precipitated the resignation of several executives.
Not even the game's superhero, Hulk Hogan, is left unscathed. Despite his public persona as a clean living wholesome giant, Hulk Hogan (real name: Terry Bollea) has been linked to steroids and drugs. Corbett reveals that the Hulkster's image is well protected, and with good reason. He is the star of a merchandising empire than grosses $1.7 billion annually. He also stars in movies and commercials. To maintain his image, particularly with the Little Hulksters, he visits as many as 30 children's hospitals in a week. It pays well for Hogan to perpetuate his clean living, child-oriented image.
After walking through the dry rot that is the modern version of the World Wrestling Federation, Corbett relates the details of Vince McMahon's trial in which he was charged with conspiracy to distribute anabolic steroids. The testimony and evidence is presented in a most readable manner."
While the investigative paperback-e-book on pro wrestling follies was written in 1994, anabolic steroids and death are once again in the news some 13 years later. On Tuesday, a toxicology report showed Chris Benoit's body contained 10 times the normal level of testosterone, as well as the anti-anxiety drug Xanax and the painkiller hydrocodone. And, once again, solid investigative reporters will be hunched over their computers, trying to make sense of all that information.

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