When City Paper called Inquirer editor Bob Rosenthal with questions about why Inky reporter Ralph Cipriano’s lengthy and unflattering profile of Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua was appearing in a Kansas City-based weekly, the National Catholic Reporter, and not in Philly’s paper of record, Rosenthal had no comment (“Holy War,” June 11).
But by the time Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz called about the same story, Rosenthal not only opted to speak, he apparently also decided the Inquirer was best served by hanging Cipriano out to dry.
“This is the latest salvo in a battle between the city’s biggest newspaper and a powerful religious institution, one that involves an unusually personal campaign against a single journalist [Cipriano],” Kurtz wrote in last Saturday’s edition. “It is also the story of a strong-willed reporter whose passion has raised doubts among some of his own editors.”
One of those editors, Kurtz reveals, is Rosenthal.
“If you were an editor dealing with someone who has the kind of feelings Ralph admits to, how would you handle it?'” Kurtz quotes Rosenthal as saying.
He went on to describe Cipriano as having “a very strong personal point of view and an agenda … There were things we didn’t publish that Ralph wrote that we didn’t think were truthful. He could never prove them.”
What does Rosenthal say?
Rosenthal didn’t return City Paper‘s first call until long after office hours on Tuesday, and was out of the office Wednesday morning.
National Catholic Reporter managing editor Tom Roberts defended Cipriano’s work. Every fact, he says, was supported either by the Archdiocese’s own documents—a rarity in his experience—other official records, or on-the-record interviews.
“I think it’s a very solid piece,” he says, “and it deserves airing.”
“What I don’t understand,” Roberts adds, “is if Rosenthal’s comments are correct, why is [Cipriano] still working there? The internal logic seems to be missing.”
And this raises another point: By publicly criticizing one of his reporters, hasn’t Rosenthal opened the door for anyone to accuse any Inquirer writer of harboring a bias the next time the paper runs a critical story? If the editor admits one of them is untrustworthy, couldn’t that be used to tarnish another—or all of them?
Cipriano—who was denounced in Bevilacqua’s newsletter last year—had little to say.
“In the last two years, while I’ve tried to get this story about the Cardinal published, many false things have been said about me,” he says. “I’m just happy the story is finally out, and people can read it and decide for themselves.”
Cipriano’s article, as well as sidebars and an editorial written by the NCR staff, can be read online at www.natcath.com.