Wall Street Journal and PBS team up on disturbing report
There were rumors. There were suspicions. There were accusations. Dr. Stanley Patrick Weber went from one Native American reservation to another, but the same troubling question kept coming up: Was this government doctor a pedophile preying on young boys?
Despite complaints from parents, a transfer and even government investigations, nothing stopped Weber from allegedly abusing boys for more than two decades.
That is the subject of a chilling joint investigation between the Wall Street Journal and PBS’s “Frontline.” “Predator on the Reservation’’ debuts tonight on most PBS stations. Check out the trailer as well as the WSJ story.
Dan Frosch and Christopher Weaver of the Wall Street Journal started reporting on Weber two years ago. They were then joined by WSJ senior video journalist Gabe Johnson and staffers from “Frontline.” Frosch has been a reporter for 20 years and said he cannot remember a more demanding story.
“The most challenging part of this story,’’ Frosch said, “was not only getting people to speak, but locating them. That was tremendously difficult.’’
There were times when the reporters were trying to track down those whose last known address was a post office box from years ago, or a telephone number that no longer works. Sometimes they had to go through relatives and friends just to get the names of other relatives and friends who might be able to track down sources.
In addition, they were dealing with events that, in some cases, allegedly happened 25 years ago when the sources were children. Frosch was digging up experiences that victims would rather forget, and often couldn’t exactly remember.
“It was enormously challenging and frustrating, for sure, at times,’’ Frosch said. “Not only to locate them, but to get them to really recall their memories and to open up about their memories.’’
The reporters also ran into former officials from the U.S. Indian Health Service who were hesitant to talk.
“They didn’t want to be on the record with sort of talking about their own role in this story, which was the role of complicity and denial,’’ Frosch said. “When you’re on a reservation, there are a lot of politics involved.”
The result was a project that is disturbing, yet important to read and watch.
Jill Abramson’s world
“Over the weekend, I was mostly taking care of and playing with my grandchildren. And focusing on all that is right with my world.”
That’s what Jill Abramson told me during a phone conversation on Monday. We spoke about how her life has been since the former executive editor of the New York Times was accused of plagiarism in her new book, “Merchants of Truth.’’
Abramson has already put out a statement and done two extensive interviews defending the plagiarism charges, so I thought that was area well covered. For our conversation, I was more interested in how she is dealing with her character being criticized, her reputation called into question and her future.
She said she is “heartsick’’ over the mistakes in her book, but still did not use the word “plagiarism’’ to describe it. We talk about her getting off Twitter, whether or not she is still proud of her book and what’s next for her.
Last weekend, a reporter for WPIX in New York City spotted a mannequin in Bloomingdale’s with a shirt that read “Fake News.” Allison Kaden tweeted out a photo along with her displeasure, writing:
“Hey @Bloomingdales, this isn’t funny or fashionable. It further de-legitimizes hard working journalists who bring REAL news to their communities.”
Bloomingdale’s reaction via Twitter on Monday wasn’t what I expected:
“Thank you for bringing this to our attention and we apologize for any offense we may have caused. We take this feedback very seriously and are working quickly to remove this t-shirt. Again, thank you for taking the time to alert us.”
Hooray for the media? Not so fast. It’s not like this is the only “Fake News’’ T-shirt out there. My Poynter colleague Daniel Funke writes that Bloomingdale’s isn’t the only place to find such a shirt.
What viewers want
When it comes to local news, viewers want short simple stories and a quick-paced newscast with nothing too complex, right? Not necessarily. Poynter’s Al Tompkins writes about a new study by Northeastern University that says viewers want something a little more meaty than that.
The study of 613 viewers, average age of 34, from six markets of various sizes from across the country reported: “Asked to describe what their ideal local news program would look like, respondents fairly consistently chose depth over efficiency.”
Worth your time
She has worked for the IRS for 16 years. During the government shutdown she was down to 38 cents in her checking account and less than eight dollars in savings. What happens if there is another government shutdown? The Washington Post tells her story. … As we approach the one-year anniversary of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, ABC’s Nightline looks back at the lives lost. … Where are news readers going to come from in 2019? Nieman Lab does a deep dive. … Whatever happened to Les Moonves? The New York Times reports. … A rabbi in Toronto was worried that no one would come to a Holocaust survivor’s funeral so he put out word on Facebook. CNN reports what happened next. (You want might a bring a tissue with you on this one.)
Upcoming Poynter training:
- Covering the 2020 Census (in Washington D.C.). Deadline: Feb. 15.
- How to surface stories in a saturated social media environment with Dataminr. Feb. 27.
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