The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


Channel 4 was alone in cutting back on coverage

By Suzanne C. Ryan, Globe Staff, 12/14/2002

It was a historic news day for the Catholic Church and the city of Boston yesterday. Which is why some viewers tuning into WBZ-TV (Channel 4) in late morning were perplexed to find the station broadcasting mundane programming like ''The Price Is Right.''

Its competitors, meanwhile, were airing continuous coverage of citywide reaction to Cardinal Law's resignation, from a teary press conference with reported victim Christopher Fulchino to expressions of hope from Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who spoke at a news conference in Washington.

WBZ's decision to air regular programming came after the station had broadcast 31/2 hours of coverage, beginning around 6 a.m. when the story broke, said news director Peter Brown. The station also had sent reporter Peg Rusconi to Rome, and it had a special report at 4 p.m. yesterday.

''The question is, `What more do you have to say?''' Brown said. ''For us, we felt we had reported the story ... and we were getting into repeat mode. We moved on to produce a well-rounded noon newscast.''

But for a local story of such importance, some in the industry said Channel 4 was premature in cutting off its coverage.

''It's a day of venting,'' said Jim Thistle, director of the broadcast journalism program at Boston University. ''If that's what's going on and you're a station with live capability, that's what you cover.''

To be sure, there was little footage of Cardinal Law available, other than a brief clip from Rome of him meeting with the pope. Auxiliary Bishop Richard Lennon, named to run the diocese temporarily, was not giving interviews.

Still, Paul La Camera, general manager at WCVB-TV (Channel 5), said it was a ''no-brainer'' for him to schedule nonstop coverage from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. ''This is one of the most important stories to hit this town in a generation.'' Channel 5 also aired a one-hour news special last night at 7.

WHDH-TV (Channel 7) also had coverage from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m., and then again beginning at 4. It aired a 30-minute special at 7:30 and expanded its 11 p.m. newscast to one hour. Reporter Victoria Block has been in Rome since Wednesday. Likewise, NECN was on the story continuously from 5:45 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Of all the stations, Channel 7 stood out as the most aggressive in sending crews throughout the city to capture reaction. The station also interviewed former co-workers of Law in Mississippi and Missouri in an effort to profile the cardinal's early career. ''Channel 7 was everywhere,'' said Thistle.

Perhaps the most moving moments yesterday came when the Fulchino family appeared at a downtown news conference to speak just after noon.

Tom Fulchino said that 40 years ago he was abused by a priest, and years later, his son Christopher was abused as well.

''This is a mixed-feeling kind of day,'' the elder father said. Wiping away tears, the son added, ''I'm glad this day has finally come.'' Losing his composure, he then fell into his father's arms.

This story ran on page A17 of the Boston Globe on 12/14/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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