It takes a village for sexual abuse of children not only to exist, but to burgeon and thrive at pandemic, Catholic Church levels. Individual crimes must be dismissed as isolated cases, no matter how widely they occur and recur, and no matter how identical are the circumstances across regions, time periods, and central administrations. Parents who should be protecting their kids have to be complicit in outsourcing swaths of hours to professional coaches, who can just as easily be self-important doofuses or worse; and the parents have to believe the dollar-chasing institutions supporting those coaches, rather than their own eyes and better instincts.
Finally, major news organs have to defer to the powerful in their coverage, in ways that would be appalling if the issue were, say, bogus claims of the advanced state of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in order to justify a war. Oh wait a minute that one already happened!
Submitted for your consideration today is the curious case of The Washington Post. Lost in the vapors of now ex-reporter Amy Shipleys decades-overdue bust of rapist coach Rick Curl now banned for life in his sixties over crimes committed against a 13-year-old girl while in his thirties is the reality that The Post hasnt told its readers anything close to the full story, and indeed hasnt even tried.
Over the past months, Ive attempted repeatedly to contact Shipley, Post sports editor Matt Vita, and others at the newspaper to hear their side of the story of a serial refusal to connect dots and impart to the public information about this horrific sequence of events that isnt packaged in heavily lawyered dueling quotes.
My most recent effort brought me to the virtual desk of one Peter B. Pexton, who holds the title Washington Post Ombudsman. Pexton explained that hes a really busy guy. My normal practice when I get a query like this is to forward it to the people involved first, the reporter and his or her editor . I think the best thing is for the Sports department to give you a response first. I will forward this to the top editors, he wrote back.
My note to Pexton had asked, in part:
* What prompted Amy Shipley’s recent departure? Did the sports department downsize? Did she simply land a better opportunity in Jacksonville?
* Shipley’s July report on the investigation of rapist swim coach Rick Curl seemed to be revised online, in real time, to reflect the withdrawal of a direct quote from a USA Swimming spokesperson. This was not acknowledged. See https://concussioninc.net/?p=5791. What happened there and what are Post policies in this connection?
* Also this summer, a local swim coach named Noah Rucker was charged with sexual misconduct with a minor swimmer he coached years ago, when he was at a high school in Vienna, Virginia, and before his current position with the club co-owned by Rick Curl. (The club now has new ownership and has been “rebranded.”) Shipley and The Post reported Rucker’s “suspension” by USA Swimming in a story on the Curl case, but your newspaper has not responded to inquiries about the terms of Rucker’s suspension. By contrast, Curl was first reported to be “provisionally” suspended, then “permanently” suspended, and he is now on USA Swimming’s published list of banned coaches. Rucker, according to The Post (USA Swimming will not add clarification), is merely “suspended,” and he is not on the banned list. What gives here? And equally important, why does The Post seem not to care about this detail even after it was brought to its attention? The status of Rucker is of great community interest.
* At the same time USA Swimming was announcing the permanent ban of Curl, Rucker was being indicted by a grand jury in Fairfax County. The Post has not reported the latter. Two-part question: (1) When and how did The Post determine that the Rucker story was no longer linked to the Curl story, and (2) Why did The Post decide that a development in the Rucker case in the local court system didn’t warrant any coverage at all?
* The Post owns a local swimming news website, reachforthewall.com. What is its business and journalistic model? And does that interest compromise coverage of the swimming industry in the main newspaper?
In my guilt over tap-dancing on a fellow ink-stained wretch, I left out other unflattering notes on the newspapers matador-style sleight-of-hand with swimming scandals: the characterization by others of Curls molestations of Kelley Davies as the worst-kept secret in Washington; reporter Shipleys fawning article on Curl when he returned to the D.C. area after a hiatus in Australia; the failure to publish a timeline of its own investigation most likely because it would contradict the official and duly regurgitated one from the swimming authority which had banned Curl only because his inappropriate relationship had brought disrepute to the Corporation.
Thats the unfinished symphony at The Washington Post. Soon I will tackle related questions at the Denver Post, whose headquarters are located an hour and a half north of those of the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Swimming. Five years ago, the Post noted the child-porn arrest of a public school teacher in Colorado Springs. So far as I can tell, the newspaper never covered the subsequent multiple convictions of Will Colebank or reported that, shortly before being let loose on the students of Carmel Middle School, he had been quietly fired as a top official at USA Swimming in an incident that suggested the executives of that organization knew full well Colebank was a character who needed to be taken out of circulation.