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My life as… Michael Rezendes

On October 7, 2009, Michael Rezendes was the guest speaker for the ‘My Life As”hellip; series, presented by Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism.

Rezendes has been an investigative reporter with The Boston Globe Spotlight Team for nearly a decade. According to Rezendes , it took several attempts and jobs before getting to his current position. Each step was shaped into a lesson for journalism students to learn.

‘You have to have a little bit of thick skin,’ Rezendes said. He applied to the Boston Globe three times, and was rejected each time, but he kept trying. Rezendes was finally accepted as a roving reporter before moving on as a weekly essayist and then a member of the Spotlight team.

‘They were the best in America,’ Rezendes said. One of things the Spotlight team worked on was exposing corruption in the FBI.

That night Rezendes was going to talk about another topic. ‘The clergy exhibitionist is what I’m often asked to talk about,’ Rezendes said. ‘It was a daunting task.’

Rezendes was the lead reporter on the opening story of the Globe’s series on the Church, revealing that top Catholic officials had veiled the abuses committed by the Rev. John J. Geoghan, a Boston priest who molested more than 100 children in six parishes over three decades.

‘The possibility that top officials were involved in a cover-up on priests that molested children was what we were interested in,’ Rezendes said.

Rezendes got close to the lawyer arguing the case to discover as many facts as possible and eventually met his clients. Rezendes spent six weeks dealing with victims.

‘It was a wrenching and heartbreaking experience,’ Rezendes said.

Documents proving that Geoghan sexually abused children and excerpts from people who suffered were also discovered. Rezendes talked about a single mom with four children who were all abused by Geoghan. One night, one child confessed and then the other children began to cry. ‘The scary part was that the priest was on his way,’ Rezendes said.

Rezendes’ story prompted more than 800 stories disclosing priests that sexually abused children. ‘It was like setting a match to a wild fire,’ Rezendes said. In addition, Rezendes broke the stories about similar cover-ups by Church officials in New York City and Tucson, Arizona.

‘It broke all over the nation,’ Rezendes said. One hundred and fifty priests were discovered in the Boston Archdiocese alone. Out of the conference, 700 priests were fired and five resigned.

Rezendes shared a 2003 Pulitzer Prize for investigating the cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. ‘It was the tens of thousands of victims that realized that they weren’t alone and have the courage to say, ‘Hey, it’s happening to me,’ was the most rewarding,’ Rezendes said. ‘Not the Pulitzer Prize.’

Rezendes feels that investigative reporting is still crucial in the field of journalism. ‘Without investigative reporters, these abuses and crime will never come to surface,’ Rezendes said.

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