"Journalism 101": Trampling on Media Ethics
Trampling on Media Ethics
“I guess I lost you after you said ‘outrageous.’”
—Joe Childs in reply to a description of the S.P. Times journalistic process
It was a process that hinged on unsubstantiated allegations from four apostate Scientologists Childs and Tobin had dredged up from what they themselves termed as the Internet’s “grassy knoll”—meaning domains of fringe conspiracy theorists.
In all, the Tobin-Childs investigation comprises 13 weeks of interviews exclusively devoted to those four sources. It’s headlined with a Tom Tobin statement that reads:
“It’s our job to press for a full examination of the facts with a clear mind. Be open minded and clear minded. ... This is Journalism 101.”
Also chapter and verse from Joe Childs’ so-called journalistic procedure: All these sources were interviewed independently; there is no information exchange between said sources; and all testimony was relentlessly fact-checked.
In actuality, however, the Childs statement is hollow, and this is what his 13 weeks of investigation failed to reveal:
The first Tobin-Childs source is Marty Rathbun, former Scientology legal affairs officer, removed from post in 2001. By his own admission:
“Each and every time on major [legal] situations, COB (Chairman of the Board, Mr. David Miscavige) has had to intervene to clean up wars I had exacerbated. For example, left to my own devices in handling IRS litigation, the end result would undoubtedly have been no exemption, a billion-dollar tax bill, and possible shutting down of the Church.”
The next Tobin-Childs source is Mike Rinder, likewise an external legal affairs officer until removed from post in 2002:
“I’ve wanted COB to be involved in external flaps. I thought it wouldn’t be such a big deal if I mishandled them....What I have done has cut across Scientology expansion and by my treasonous acts I also created personal hardship and distraction for COB, which further prevented him from expanding Scientology due to being embroiled in legal matters he never should have had to handle.”
Third on the Tobin-Childs source list is Tom DeVocht. He served as Church construction manager until removed from post in 2005:
“Specifically and in short … I committed financial crimes by signing work orders and committing expenses without any authority. I worked out that I am responsible for close to $10,000,000 (in lost parishioner funds).”
Finally, there is Amy Scobee, former Scientology executive removed from any position of authority in 2002:
“I have created too much harm for the Church and people who work in it for me to be able to make amends for these violations.”
The above-cited statements are provided by Tommy Davis to Childs and Tobin on May 28 in Clearwater, Florida. Also provided are details regarding the dismissals of “their people” for these and other wrongdoings—all in direct contradiction to claims that said individuals resigned from the Church in protest of Mr. David Miscavige.
By way of a first gut reply, Joe Childs focuses on a document wherein DeVocht proposes he somehow make good on the $10 million—to which Childs remarks:
“Isn’t that sweet,” [and laughs].
By way of a secondary reply, Davis asks:
“In all of this railing against Mr. Miscavige and the Church by, whether it’s Amy Scobee or Marty Rathbun or Tom DeVocht, maybe I missed it and if I did, I would be more than happy to be proven wrong, but I don’t hear them saying anything good is happening. You don’t hear anything good is happening. You don’t hear about the good and it really, in my opinion, calls into question their credibility.”
To which Childs replies:
“That makes a point.”
But it is also at this juncture that Childs and Tobin are presented with what amounts to the follow-up story of their sources.
That is, while the Times’ “people” have uniformly alleged an abusive “culture” within Scientology management, the facts were again diametrically opposite.
“I myself began the practice of browbeating people.”—Marty Rathbun
“Marty Rathbun and I were working together as close friends and beating up people. I drove the fear into people with my physical handling of people by shouting and demanding that they confess. I might have given the impression to others that Mr. Miscavige knew about it or condoned it, but when Mr. Miscavige would come in asking what was happening, I withheld what was going on.”—Tom DeVocht
“I didn’t have the courage to counter [Marty].”—Mike Rinder
“I abused my power and violated policy by L. Ron Hubbard when I enforced harsh discipline on certain staff…”—Amy Scobee
There is a meaningful silence when these statements are read, and this time Childs admits:
“We definitely have to go back. We definitely need to talk to Marty again. You have said a lot of things that he needs to respond to.”
Tobin chimes in:
“We can assure you we are proceeding in good faith. You have raised some concerns.”
At which point Mr. Davis concludes the discussion by stating:
“I would hope you could at least acknowledge that these people have an ax to grind.”
To which both Childs and Tobin reply in unison:
"You have said a lot of things that he Marty Rathbun needs to respond to.
"You have raised some concerns."
- Joe Childs & Tom Tobin
There’s a subsequent telephone call on June 2, wherein Childs requests copies of all previously presented documents. Through the course of that call, he confesses:
“We’ve got some work to do. I expect when we see the material tomorrow, we will have even more work to do.”
Those documents indeed arrive the following morning, and comprise more than 2,000 column inches. A second meeting is scheduled for June 10 wherein another 1,000 column inches of material is presented.
- That Marty Rathbun admits to more than 25 physical assaults on fellow staff members.
- That through dereliction of duties, Rathbun further cost the Church millions of dollars in legal expenses.
- That Rathbun and Rinder acted in collusion to willfully sabotage legal cases to the net effect of tens of millions of dollars more.
- That Tom DeVocht hired a convicted felon to broker property transactions for the Church, thereby losing yet another million dollars in parishioner donations.
- That Amy Scobee admitted to five extramarital affairs and/or instances of sexual misconduct during her tenure as a Church staff member, in direct contravention of codes of conduct for Church staff.
- And when the involvement of these individuals was discovered they were immediately and summarily removed.
In reply to these facts and more, Childs and Tobin “circle back” to re-interview all concerned sources. There are no denials, and within seven days Childs telephones Tommy Davis to report that Rathbun had confirmed the catalog of his physical violence:
“You were right. He verified the list you gave us and added some names we didn’t have.”
To which Childs adds:
“It is a long list. That too will be in the article.”
In fact, however, the final article makes no mention whatsoever of Rathbun’s admissions to Childs. Nor were readers presented with anything close to the truth about DeVocht’s malfeasance or the extent of Scobee’s sexual misconduct.
Then, too, the S.P. Times has never acknowledged that their sources withheld information or lied to them over the course of a three-month investigation.
Instead, the article closes with an entirely fabricated image of Rathbun motorcycling off into the sunset. After which—and this too goes unmentioned—he wound up dead drunk in a ditch.