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CNN's Scientology reporting should look familiar to St. Petersburg Times readers



Anderson_cooper One of the more interesting results from the St. Petersburg Times' groundbreaking reporting on the Church of Scientology has been all the other journalism it has inspired.

Everyone from the New York Times to ABC News has tackled their own reports on turmoil within the church, tracking down many of the high-profile defectors the St. Petersburg Times first revealed last year in the early installments of our series The Truth Rundown.

This week, CNN take its turn at bat, as star anchor Anderson Cooper devoted a week of reportsto reviewing the allegations that church leader David Miscavige repeatedly beat subordinates and fostered an atmosphere of violence inside the organization's top levels. Click here to read Cooper's blog post on the series, which the anchor credits the St. Petersburg Times for inspiring.

Unfortunately, the show didn't present much information readers of the St. Petersburg Times series haven't already seen, balancing the on camera allegations of many of the former top-level Scientologists featured in our reports with vehement denials from former colleagues and ex-spouses still inside the church.

Scientology-Miscavige-tease While Cooper expressed skepticism about claims from church spokespeople that the accusers were the violent ones -- the CNN anchor repeatedly asked why the church took years to remove the men and never called police -- he also stressed that a lack of physical evidence left proof of either side unknowable.

The result so far has been four days of he said/she said reporting, with little of the detail which can make such stories so valuable. Beyond the allegations of violence, the Truth Rundown stories have also exposed the inner working of a church which has worked mightily to keep some of its procedures from public view.

The convoluted process of leaving the church, the efforts by former church members to reclaim money paid to the church, the way in which the church earned its IRS tax exemption years ago, the controversial death of Scientologist Lisa McPherson -- all these subjects were illuminated a little further in the stories published last year.

But such details are tough to negotiate on television, even in a multipart series. And while it was notable to see the story brought to TV's wider audience -- and significant that CNN spent precious hours in primetime on the story -- it was a bit disappointing to see so little new information presented.

There's one more report scheduled tonight. Below are the previous reports CNN aired this week, followed by a multimedia report from the Times.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 3:06pm]


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