A Statement from the KNOM Radio Mission Board of Directors on the Offenses of Fr. James Poole

KNOM Radio

December 21, 2018

Several stories have entered the media recently concerning the offenses of KNOM founder Fr. James Poole, SJ.

First, former KNOM volunteer Helene Stapinski wrote a column for Commonweal magazine as part of its “Why We Came. Why We Left. Why We Stayed” series, documenting different reactions to the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. Poole was no longer working at the radio station in the early 1990s when Stapinski was on staff, but insofar as his name was still affixed to KNOM correspondence at that time, and recordings of his voice occasionally sent over the airwaves, she indicates that she came to feel like an unwitting accomplice to Poole’s abuse and deception.

Then, a lengthy story by the Center for Investigative Reporting highlights Poole in a broader effort to show how clergy sex abuse in the former Oregon province of the Jesuit order was ignored or covered up by Jesuit superiors. This was packaged as a print story and picked up by the Associated Press, and also presented as an audio documentary, reported by former KNOM employee Emily Schwing. She served as KNOM News Director for three months in early 2016. Additional stories about Poole’s crimes have since appeared.

This is not the first time that Poole’s numerous acts of sexual abuse against minors have been documented publicly. The PBS investigative series Frontline told Poole’s story in 2011 as part of a program on clergy sex abuse in rural Alaska, and numerous TV, radio, and print stories covered the allegations against Poole as they became public in 2004 and 2005.

First and foremost, it is crucial to reiterate that Poole’s actions are indefensible and inexcusable. He brought pain and humiliation to his victims, and shame even to those of us who never knew him, but are forced to deal with his reprehensible legacy. The lawsuits against Poole and other priests and religious sent the Diocese of Fairbanks into bankruptcy in 2008, and nearly ended KNOM. But the station emerged in 2010 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, remaining faithfully Catholic in its identity, and with a volunteer board of directors serving as owner in place of the diocese.

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