Will You Be the Journalist Who Covers Scientology Right?
Whether you are an amateur blogger, the curator of a Facebook page, or a content creator for a prestigious international news organization, if—by your writings or your multimedia content—you seek to inform people about the world, you’re a journalist (or want to be). And if you’re a journalist in any capacity, I’m directing this writing specifically to you.
I’m assuming that, as a writer, a Facebooker, YouTuber or content creator, you have a sense of personal honor and would want to do what’s right—to demonstrate in some way that public enlightenment founded on the truth is indeed the forerunner of justice and is foundational to a free, democratic society.
Assuming I’m still describing you, and not some evil sockpuppet internet troll or slimy tabloid paparazzo, this would imply you would subscribe to the Code of Journalistic Ethics detailed by the Society of Professional Journalists. And since you are on this site, let’s assume for a second that you’ve considered doing an article, post or video on Scientologists or the Scientology religion.
Given that you’d want to cover Scientologists and Scientology with ethics and decency, allow me to excerpt a few key points of the aforementioned journalistic Code of Ethics which can help you craft an engaging, incisive, and yet fair and accurate article about my religion, or any religious group, for that matter.
Let’s focus here on the first section of the Code: Seek Truth and Report It.
The code states:
Journalists should take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources whenever possible.
All too often—likely in the interest of time—I’ve seen other news articles quoted as the basis for a new “original article” on the subject of Scientology and Scientologists. One thing you may not have known, however, is that it’s entirely possible to get answers to your questions and data for your stories directly from Scientologists. It is not at all difficult to get yourself an original source for your story: individual Scientologists who would be more than happy to bare their soul to you in the interest of making known the truth. Myself among them.
Got a question about what it’s really like to be a Scientologist, or what it’s like raising a family in Scientology? Why did I get into Scientology in the first place, and what am I getting out of it? What’s it like working at a Church or in the Church’s management? You need only ask.
Journalists should remember that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.
Yes, there’s a lot to write about, and you have a serious quota of articles to get out. Yes, it’s easier to take an alarming-sounding news piece full of “allegations” and write an article on it than it is to verify those allegations and cover the truth.
But your quest to fulfill a word count is no excuse for slandering a worldwide religion because you put insufficient effort into verifying your story.
Did you hear a spooky story that Scientologists believe some weird thing? Ask a Scientologist. Read a book. Verify it yourself. Is it true?
Did you hear a strange story that made working at a Scientology organization sound somehow “alarming?” Talk to a Scientologist who is there currently, or who has been there—get the straight scoop.
Journalists should gather, update and correct information throughout the life of a news story.
Now’s your chance: Did you already write or help on an article on Scientology or Scientologists which, after browsing this site or talking to one of us, you now realize is inaccurate? If so, it’s your duty and responsibility to correct information in that article.
If you feel you’re missing our side of the story and have heretofore only reported the party line, realize that the word gather is in the statement above. It’s your responsibility to gather data to arrive at the truth, and that doesn’t mean “take it from another news article which itself pulled from a gossip site.” It means talking to real people, reading source material, or stepping into a Church yourself.
Journalists should be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable. Give voice to the voiceless.
Talking to a Scientologist to get your questions answered, or setting foot inside a Scientology Church doesn’t take courage—it just takes doing. However, holding those with power accountable and writing about things that vested interests won’t like does take some courage.
A&E TV is half-owned by one of the largest media conglomerate in the world (Disney) which rakes in over $15 billion annually. Controlling far-reaching subsidiaries such as ABC and ESPN as well as their better known family programming and feature-film units, they are capable of touching nearly every person on Earth with whatever message they wish. Are they “the voiceless?” Negative. The other half of A&E is owned by Hearst Communications, the company which literally gave birth to the term “yellow journalism,” which rakes in over $10 billion yearly and whose sensational news outlets have quite literally started wars. Both of these companies pay their bills with outrageously large advertising checks written to them by pharmaceutical companies—companies which, owing to diligent work by the Church of Scientology and its volunteers, have been found guilty in settlements tallying in the TENS OF BILLIONS. Do such companies have an axe to grind with us, then? Perhaps.
But these companies have an immense amount of power, and they must be held accountable.
This is the climate in which one has-been actress famously acquired “limitless funding” to “go after Scientology.” This is not a “helpless, voiceless” someone on a balanced fact-finding mission. This is someone who was funded by an unknown party to smear my friends, family and fellow Scientologists, and by the very nature of her cash flow could not afford to paint my Church in a positive light.
Conversely, go down to the archives of CNN, the Huffington Post or any other major news source and tally up all the times in the last year the stories of individual Scientologists like me were featured. Go ahead, I’ll wait. You won’t find one.
Realize that people like me, and my other friends who are Scientologists and members of STAND, have much to lose by speaking up about our religion, with nearly every article or tweet auto-replied to by a fountain of faceless Twitter trolls and bigots.
But the price for not speaking up about our experiences as Scientologists and what we see in it every day is our own personal honor and the future lives of our families, and that’s something that keeps us writing.
So, when you put your fingers on a keyboard to write your next article or cut your next video about Scientology, whose story will you tell? Will you have the courage to stand true to your own code of ethics?
If so, I’d be delighted to talk to you.