Scientology and the Media
Much like everything else in our debt-ridden economy, the media has hit hard times. Papers have folded, fired staff, or been sold. This leaves news markets with fewer papers and less investigative reporting. Amidst this glum report comes another trend worth discussing. As the mainstream media centralizes its overall presence in a few organizations, some papers left standing have been acquired by organizations with strong religious affiliations.
Consider the Times Publishing Company’s sale of Governing magazine, which reports on state and local governments, to e.Republic, whose founder and top executives are Scientologists. e.Republic’s founder Dennis McKenna has practiced Scientology for over 30 years and was identified as a church spokesman in 1979. The Times Publishing Company still owns The St. Petersburg Times, which has long investigated and criticized the Church of Scientology. In the last several months, The St. Petersburg Times has run a series of scathing articles on the Church of Scientology under the title “The Truth Rundown.” (In 1980, that newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize for an investigation of the church’s inner workings).
Governing staffers worry that their new management’s religious practices may affect their jobs. According to The New York Times, their anxiety stems from 2001 article in the Sacramento News and Review reporting that e.Republic’s staff members were required to read a book on management called “Speaking from Experience,” written by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. e.Republic’s Chief Operating Officer has said, however, that in his 13 years at the company, he had never read Mr. Hubbard’s book. Some of the staffers’ concerns might be alleviated by the fact that e.Republic has long published Government Technology (GT) magazine, one of my favorite sources for my work on government’s use of information technologies, with no sign that the owner’s religion has had an impact on the stories that GT publishes. But no matter, this trend is worth watching as newspapers continue their downward spiral.
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