What Fresh Hell Is This?

December 2, 2006

Rob Owen spanks Marty Griffin

And it ain't pretty. Take a look. Owen sets the scene in the opening:
The Marty Griffin Reputation Rehabilitation tour continued unabated last week with the KDKA reporter's second pro-church story. It comes in the aftermath of the Rev. Brent Dugan's suicide following KDKA promotions for a Griffin report that accused the minister of "public and illegal sexual behavior."
For more background, here's the P-G's initial reporting. And Rob's previous reporting. Seems that our boy Marty had (or thought he had) some sort of "gotcha" story on Pastor Dugan and the story took a tragic turn.
Promos for the report were broadcast for several days last week. They showed Griffin confronting Dugan about his alleged visits to an adult bookstore. It was unclear from the promos what other details the report would reveal.

During the 11 p.m. news Thursday, Griffin said his investigation "uncovered illicit, possibly illegal, activity by a local minister, activities which, at the very least, violated the rules of his denomination."

It's the use of key words -- possibly illegal, at the very least -- that call into question whether the report was worth doing in the first place. If the best Griffin could dig up was a trip to an adult bookstore (not illegal) and violation of church rules, then there's not much in it to serve the public interest. It comes off looking like another "gotcha"-style story designed for no benefit except the TV station's ratings.

What aired Thursday did not mention Dugan by name; he wasn't shown on screen. His church and denomination were not named. But Dugan was pictured in promos that aired for several days earlier on KDKA. The damage was done.
How much damage? Read this statement from Jim Mead, Pastor of the Pittsburgh Presbytery.
Brent had been missing since late Wednesday afternoon, shortly after he learned that he would be featured in an undercover television news story by KDKA that would make sensational revelations of what KDKA alleged was misconduct. Members of the congregation made every imaginable effort to reach Brent through friends and family members, and a missing persons report was filed, but to no avail. Ultimately, KDKA decided not to air the story after they learned that Brent may take his own life. It is the view of many, including me, that KDKA may well be said to have crossed boundaries of acceptable journalistic practices in its development and treatment of this story . . . and its treatment of our pastor who was its subject. On Friday evening we were notified by the State Police that Brent had been found lifeless as a result of a self-induced overdose of medication.
I don't think anyone can argue that Marty didn't cross a serious journalistic line. Thus, I guess, the need for "The Marty Griffin Reputation Rehabilitation Tour."

But take a look at how much Marty screws that one up. Owen begins with the KDKA piece itself:
"Tonight one of the area's most hallowed churches, the mother church of the Catholic church, is the scene of a crime," said Patrice King Brown, reading the newscast's top story on Nov. 22. "Thieves have stolen everything from the vestments of the priests to the poor boxes from St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland, virtually anything that was not nailed down."
And then he rattles off all of the (very serious) problems with Marty's reporting.
Problem No. 1: By using present tense, this script left parishioners with the mistaken impression that all these things had been stolen recently, said the Rev. Thomas Burke of St. Paul. Burke was interviewed for the report and said he was asked to list the things that were stolen, including Oriental rugs, a bride's honeymoon tickets and candle money. But the way the report presented the information, it appeared to have all happened recently and within a short period of time.

Problem No. 2: "Thieves started hitting this church a year ago," Griffin reported.

The reality: The Oriental rugs were stolen more than five years ago, the bride's tickets were taken three years ago. The vestments were stolen last year and theft of poor box and candle money has been going on "since eternity," Burke said.
So the chronology is skewed. That should've been enough to tank the story right there, but there's another, vastly larger, problem:
Problem No. 3: "Back in the day when I was growing up, when I was an altar boy, I could do this with no problem, come up to St. Paul's [sic] Cathedral 24 hours a day, seven days a week and go inside. Not anymore," Griffin said, yanking on the locked church doors at 6 p.m. "They have to lock the doors."

In reality, the church doors are normally open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., but because it was the day before Thanksgiving, the church staff left early and the doors were locked at 5:30 p.m. The usual 8 p.m. closing time has been in effect for at least three years, and Burke, 36, doesn't remember the doors ever being unlocked 24 hours a day.
Whah? Didn't Marty Griffin check to see why the doors were closed that day? Didn't he bother to check to see when the doors are usually closed? Either he did or he didn't - either way this is bad bad reporting. I'm only a blogger and even I know that.

Why would KDKA let such absolutely shoddy work go out over it's airwaves? The word "reprehesible" comes to mind. As does "incompetent" and "garbage."

And tell me again: why, after such grotesque blunders as the death of Pastor Dugan and the story about the "crime scene" at the Cathedral, is Marty Griffin even allowed in the KDKA building anymore?

I'm just asking.

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Matt H said...

KDKA needs to do something to reel M. Griffin in. His history shows a pattern of recklesness and it needs to stop.

Ol' Froth said...

There is only one way to punish Griffin..FIRE HIM! This is the same guy who insinuated that the Count Police were giving favorable treatment to bigwigs by filming the IMPOUND LOT!

Brent Petrick said...

My name is Brent Petrick, I am the nephew of Rev. Dugan. I'm not sure where to even start. Marty Griffin is responsible for taking a wonderful, loving man away from his family and congregation. What ground breaking news could he have possibly had of an individual's personal life? The story was dropped because he had no news! There was no evidence of "possible illegal activity" as Marty so slanderously put it. The funeral service for "Unc" as my brother, sister and myself called him, had over 750 people in attedance, all of whom loved this man as much as we did! My mother still breaks down and crys from the loss of her only brother, like at my daughter's birthday party last Sunday. I still feel an emptyness in my heart every time I go fly fishing or think that I should call Unc for directions, ask how to cook a favorite dish, or for a fancy word to use in a letter. Thank you Marty for such insightful reporting; thank you for taking my "Unc" from me.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what to say except that M. Griffin is a selfish and self absorbing person. "Ye who is without sin, cast the first stone". KDKA is also responsible for this tragedy, because they allowed Mr. Griffin to continue with this story. So what? People have the right to have privacy, whether you are a minister, a teacher, a best friend or yes Mr. Griffin, even a news caster. I loved Brent Dugan for 30 years. He was the one constant in my life. I miss him terribly, and when you die Mr. Griffin, I hope you have to face Brent in heaven, because, I know that he would be the first one to forgive you and he would be the first one to ask God to forgive you.

Beverly "pony"

Jessica said...

I find it reprehensible that this many people would hold a journalist responsible for the suicide of another man. If the pastor chose to kill himself- it was exactly that- HIS CHOICE. Neither Marty Griffin nor anyone else can be or should be blamed. The mere mention of it is utterly ridiculous (being as this post will most likely go over heads - it is probably just as ridiculous.) Suicide is defined as: the act or an instance of taking one's own life voluntarily and intentionally —Year Book of Neurology, Psychiatry, &Neurosurgery. The pastor voluntarily and intentionally took his life - he [and you] has no one to blame but himself. Furthermore, the church I'm recovering from taught us that people who commit suicide don't go to heaven- so Marty, don't worry about running into him there...

Has anyone thought that maybe the pastor committed suicide because there was more he was hiding and he couldn't bear facing its exposure? Bottom line, he took himself away from his family and congregation.

By the way, has anyone heard of freedom of the press?