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Where were Boston TV stations during church sex abuse scandal?

From left: Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer, Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendes, and Brian d'Arcy James as Matt Carroll in the 2015 film “Spotlight,” directed by Tom McCarthy. Kerry Hayes / Open Road Films/Open Road Films

One of the reasons critics likeSpotlight” so well is that director Tom McCarthy’s Oscar-nominated movie doesn’t let The Boston Globe off the hook. The film, about the newspaper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series exposing the priest sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church, makes it clear that the Globe could have told the story sooner. But a piece published Friday in the Columbia Journalism Review raises similar questions about Boston TV stations.

Written by Terry Ann Knopf, a longtime lecturer in the BU Journalism Department and the author of the forthcoming book, “Boston: The Golden Age of Local Television,” the piece makes the case that local TV stations looked the other way because of close ties to the church. Dan Rea, who worked for more than 30 years at WBZ-TV, much of that time covering the church, had this to say to Knopf: “In retrospect, we did not take action. We circled the wagons.”


The piece also points out that Paul LaCamera, a former Channel 5 exec, served on the board of Catholic Charities, and the late Jim Thistle, a TV news director who toiled at four Boston TV stations, was on the board of the Boston Catholic Television Center and chaired the Boston Catholic Archdiocese Synod Subcommittee on Communications. “I’ve always been very proud of my association with Catholic Charities,” LaCamera told us Friday, saying his involvement with the organization had no bearing on Channel 5’s coverage. “The issue never came up.”

Clark Booth, a former reporter for Channel 5, told Knopf it was a different time. Reporters, he said, were more interested in spectacle than scandal. “There was a little more reverence for the Church. (Reporters) were more ceremonial, more ecclesiastical — it was the big event — it was about the music, the color and the incense. We never got into issues.” Reached Friday, Knopf said the local media was late in reporting the priest scandal. “Boston’s TV station were largely derelict in their own duties,” she said.