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Spotlight Report

Globe is denied access as punishment for story

By Thomas Farragher, Globe Staff, 6/14/2002

DALLAS - Reporters for The Boston Globe have been prohibited from covering live sessions of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, a punishment, conference officials said yesterday, for the newspaper's report last week about the conference's draft policy on clergy sexual abuse before it was formally issued by the bishops.

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''Yes, that's the reason,'' said Monsignor Francis J. Maniscalco, director of communications for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, when asked why the Globe was being excluded. ''It was a decision made by the executive staff.''

The bishops' conference is being shown via closed-circuit TV in a large pressroom at the downtown hotel ballroom here. Conference leaders are issuing all-access media passes to just 20 reporters, including wire services, major newspapers, and religion writers - who are allowed to observe the bishops' deliberations from seats inside the hall where they meet.

Twenty other passes into the conference room are being shared by reporters from other media outlets.

Maniscalco's dispute with the Globe began last week when he declined to allow the newspaper to attend an invitation-only briefing to preview the proposed policy on sexual abuse. After the newspaper complained, Maniscalco agreed to allow religion writer Michael Paulson to listen to the briefing by telephone; when the Globe then obtained a leaked copy of the draft policy and ran a story before the briefing, Maniscalco was upset.

In an e-mail to Paulson last week, Maniscalco said ''the Globe shows a complete lack of accommodation ... which will have to be factored into our future dealings.''

Conference leaders did allow a Globe photographer brief access to the conference room yesterday.

Asked whether he intends to reconsider the decision to ban Globe reporters, Maniscalco said: ''I have no intention of saying anything further about it.''

The Globe lodged a protest yesterday with the bishops' conference at being excluded.

''The bishops' conference singled out the Globe for punishment solely because we did our job as journalists,'' said Globe editor Martin Baron. ''We obtained a copy of the bishops' draft policy on sex abuse from an independent source and we published the contents before the bishops formally announced it. In an act of recrimination, the bishops have excluded the Globe from the floor of the conference. This sort of behavior is surprising and disappointing, and we can only hope it does not continue.''

This story ran on page A40 of the Boston Globe on 6/14/2002.
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