After ‘Spotlight,’ an unsung hero soldiered on

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The movie “Spotlight” ends with the first story published about the clergy scandal that would mushroom around the world.

The Boston Globe’s Spotlight team followed that story — but an unsung hero was a journalist from central Massachusetts named Kathy Shaw.

Shaw, who died Sunday night, worked on a clergy Abuse Tracker that became a reference to journalists worldwide who were following the story. Those who worked with her speak of her dedication, tackling the issue of church abuse from the early 1990s on. Though not famous or from a big town, Shaw showed how a journalist, even late in a career, can make a difference.

Kathy Shaw, second from left. Photo: Courtesy of Bill Mitchell

From 2002 through this year, Shaw, a former award-winning religion reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, posted thousands of stories to the abuse tracker, which was begun by Poynter’s former editor, Bill Mitchell, and now is hosted at www.bishop-accountability.org.

Mitchell said he was inspired to start the tracker based on the way reporter Jim Romenesko was tracking changes in the news. But Mitchell, running the Poynter site at that time, needed contributors such as Shaw — and she volunteered.

“Kathy took it on as a personal mission and delivered on almost every day for 16 years,” Mitchell said in an interview. “She shed enormous light on what the church tried to keep secret.”

She “transformed the news blog into an indispensable resource and record, used by everyone who works on the clergy abuse crisis or cares about it. Thanks to Kathy and Abuse Tracker, every local development in the abuse crisis could be followed by people everywhere,” colleagues Terence McKiernan and Anne Barrett Doyle wrote.

Shaw also was a union activist and a mental health counselor. But she was always on.

“She was a boisterous character,” Mitchell said. “She talked about waking up in the middle of the night, computer near the bed, and checked in with what was happening with the clergy abuse story around the world. She just would not be stopped.”

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Many thanks to Kristen Hare for editing this.

And have a good Tuesday.

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