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Sunday, February 10, 2008
Kathy Shaw is back at Abuse Tracker: The tracker lady just has to keep on tracking
“Kathy Shaw (pictured above) is "the one constant through three host servers" --Bill Mitchell, Poynter Institute
By Kay Ebeling
It has taken a string of miracles, what atheists call coincidences, for the pedophile priest story to unfold. The internet allowed individuals to find each other, persons were in the right place at the right time, others persevered.
A key player from the beginning has been Kathy Shaw, who covered the story from the beginning working the religion beat for Worcester Telegram & Gazette. A resourceful reporter, Shaw found Abuse Tracker as soon as Poynter Institute started it as a research tool for journalists in 2002. Shaw was one of the first to contribute to the Tracker and she just stayed with it.*
Today Shaw produces the daily Abuse Tracker, a 24-hour 7-day a week volunteer post which was covered by Anne Barrett Doyle and Terry McKiernan of Bishop Accountability the last six weeks while Shaw recovered from a fall on “black ice” that left her with two broken bones in her right wrist.
A graduate of Assumption College in Worcester, Shaw says, “I have never left the church, still consider myself to be a Catholic, I accept the faith. But I also still stand for justice and Christian principles.” Shaw became a reporter for the Worcester paper while she was in college and worked there her entire career. In 1991 the Gazette Telegram created a new beat, covering churches.
“The Massachusetts Council of Churches met with the editor and asked for a religion reporter,” Shaw said in a recent phone interview. “Everybody else scoffed, but I said I’ll take it. Right after that what I call ‘The Porter Wave’ of allegations started. People started coming forward in the Worcester diocese.
“All the other reporters were saying, gee I kinda wish. . . .” Shaw stayed on the religion beat for more than ten years, covering the Boston scandal from the beginning.
The Poynter Institute Foundation provides “everything you need to be a better journalist,” so they were experimenting with ways to use the internet as a research tool, especially new platforms coming about known as web logs (blogs).
“We did something similar in the early stages of the Iraq War,” said Poynter Institute founder Bill Mitchell, who started the Tracker in 2001. “I think we called them dispatches. But the Iraq War blog didn't sustain itself the way Abuse Tracker did.
“Kathy Shaw was one of the reporters whose stories I was linking,” Mitchell continued, “because the story at that point was in Boston and Massachusetts in general and she was covering it.”
Mitchell, an academician and scholar, explained to me, “Blogs execute the principle of aggregate content in multiple places with multiple links.” I said, yeah, and isn’t it cool the way I can hook my readers up now with YouTube videos?
After six months, Poynter Institute conducted research and learned that its experimental research blog Abuse Tracker attracted not only journalists, but attorneys, plaintiffs, families involved in cases, curious parishioners.
“It became less a service Poynter should provide,” Mitchell said. “I’m on the board of National Catholic Reporter. It occurred to me it was a fit for them and so NCR took it over.” Soon after that Abuse Tracker went to Bishop Accountability.
Throughout it all Kathy Shaw continued to post.
Mitchell said, “Kathy was a religion reporter for the Worcester Telegram and she got very involved in tracking what was going on.
“She really made it go, she was relentless, seven days a week, holidays, just constantly.
“The one constant through the three host services has been Kathy Shaw, now that you mention it,” Mitchell reflected.
Kathy Shaw looks back on those early days: “Back in 2002 there was no Google News. With Poynter we had a 9:30 AM deadline.
“I’d get up at six and you’d have to go to every newspaper site where you thought there might be a story. In those days you really relied on people sending submissions.
“Poynter thought it was going to be short term. But within weeks we had half a million hits a month. Then Google News came along in 2003.”
Shaw would get up every day and meet the 9:30 AM deadlines for Abuse Tracker before going to her job as a reporter for the Telegram Gazette.
When she told me that I was stunned, stopped taking notes, froze in awe. Kathy Shaw is not even a crime victim, has nothing to gain, yet here she is missing sleep every day for 10 years just because she sees it needs to be done.
She said, “Tracker has always been volunteer And Bishop Accountability too, they're all volunteers.
"We do it because we know it’s important. We understand the value of it and we do it because it’s what needs to be done.
“I’m a pensioner now, so depending on what's breaking if there’s a news cycle with all kinds of scandal I could be sitting there all morning, then another news cycle hits around 4 in the afternoon.
A DAY IN THE LIFE:
“I wake up sometime between 7 and 8 and go to the coffee pot where my coffee is premade, and with my Labrador Pup Noel under the desk I start. I have a set routine because it’s early in the morning.
“I call up the Moveable Type page, call up Google News, and start my email. At Google I have a set bunch of key words that give you the stories from all the cities. It’s all done through Google
“I have keywords that I’ve used for years. I type them in every day: Sexual abuse. Priests. Pastor, which will give you the protestants.
“There’s a website I use called Catholic Doors Ministry, a search engine that goes through all the Catholic entries. I always manage to find a story there that I missed.
“Then when that's all done I hit my email, submissions people sent over night. If something is running hot there’ll be a lot of entries from different people, various advocacy groups, moms and pops that find something in their local media.
Shaw Likes It When People Send Her Stories
“My name at the end of each article links you directly to my email,” she says.
“When we started in 2002 there might have been 10 or 15 stories a day. We used a blog program. Then as the scandal started burgeoning the blog program couldn't handle it and the software kept breaking down.
“So Poynter moved it to Moveable Type. Now there’s no deadlines. Whenever anything happens, we can post it.
“We now post more than 7,500 stories a year,” Shaw said.
“Poynter never expected it to last more than a few weeks, then it took on a life of its own.
"I knew, because I’d covered this for years, that we were only hitting the tip of the iceberg. I said back then to Poynter, we're talking 20 years, and they didn't believe me.
“One journalist I talk to in Boston is predicting another wave in five years,” Shaw said. “And as for the ‘drop off in reports of abuse in the 1980s, the reason is those victims haven’t come forward yet, journalists who cover this believe. I’m sure victims are being abused even as we speak. People abused in the eighties and nineties are still dealing with it and haven’t come forward.”
I asked, Do you get the perpetrators confused from city to city the way I do?
“More strange is a remember them all,” Shaw said. “Don’t ask me why but I do. I know Bob Hoatson was abused by two Christian Brothers.”
She remembered my perpetrator, Father Thomas Barry Horne, of Chicago Archdiocese, off the top of her head. (I prefer to call him Father Horny.)
“Most touching is stories from survivors,” Kathy Shaw says. “People write to me and say I’ve been reading and I need to tell you my story. Not for publication, they just want to tell me their story. It reminds me continually of what we're doing and why we're doing it.”
Shaw is no newcomer to community service. She was a crisis counselor in mental health during her early career, a newspaper reporter by day and counselor by night. “Massachusetts has a network of crisis counselors,” she explained.
“It’s important for survivors to tell their stories. Most of them don’t expect me to post it to the public when they talk to me. These are private conversations where they say, we want you to know --
“If they do want to go public I tell them to go to their local media.”
One more question:
How Do You Get The Stories from Italy Translated????
Another volunteer, a translator, a former worker for Alitalia Airlines, a big Abuse Tracker fan. I believe he went to a Salesians school in Italy.
“He does the translation for me.” So stories translated from Italian show up in her email regularly.
Shaw does use translation software for other languages. “It gives you the gist of the story but I could use a volunteer for the other languages, especially French and Spanish.”
And what is Kathy Shaw going to do for the next few years?
“The tracker lady just has to keep on trackin’
*Epimeno is Greek for “To Persevere”
Onward. . .
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CALL: Target Crimes, LA DA's Office, to report sex crimes in the Catholic Church: Phone: (213) 974-5985