By: Dorothy Giobbe Church of Scientology accuses St. Petersburg Times of prejudice; Times' editor questions group's 'agenda' sp.
THREE MONTHS AFTER accusing the St. Petersburg Times of biased coverage, the Church of Scientology's magazine, Freedom, is following up with an "expose" of what it terms "hypocrisy" and "a history of prejudice" directed toward minority groups and women at the newspaper. The Times "is not in a position to point a finger at anyone," reads an editor's note preceding the Freedom article. "[I]t is long past time for the activities of the Times to be exposed to public scrutiny." The article asserts that "the racial composition of the newsroom and the boardroom continues to be a problem that plagues the Times." Freedom quotes sources and statistics previously published in the Times. In particular, Freedom cites figures which show a low concentration of African Americans in senior or managerial positions at the Times. Also, the article quotes a former employee who said women are confronted with a "glass ceiling" at the newspaper. The piece also takes aim at Times editor Andy Barnes. In response to Barnes' published claim that the newspaper is actively recruiting minorities, Freedom accused Barnes of a "striking lack of sensitivity," when he added that "I don't sense that the world is about to end on this issue." The article also quoted an African American reverend who, after meeting with Barnes, said his attitude was "condescending." "Freedom quoted extensively from our own coverage," Barnes told E&P. "The problems of how do you promote African Americans within an interracial organization are real. We are making as good progress as anybody I know, and I intend to go on doing that." "I don't wish to dignify Freedom by making them my judges on the questions of how we run the newspaper," he added. "They have another agenda going, and they may present themselves as journalists, but they're not." Three months ago, the Church of Scientology accused the Times of "inflammatory" coverage that was based on "lies and innuendo" (E&P April 9, page 16). At the time, Paul Tash, executive editor of the Times, defended the coverage of the Church, saying it must be held to the same standard of scrutiny that other large organizations are subject to.