ABC "Nightline" Program Dealing with Buffalo Diocese Tentatively Scheduled

By Alan Pergamont
Buffalo News
July 24, 2019

Channel 7’s Charlie Specht. (Photo courtesy of WKBW-TV)

The ABC “Nightline” program that will feature the award-winning coverage by Channel 7 investigative reporter Charlie Specht on the sexual abuse allegations in the Buffalo Diocese finally has a tentative air date.

WKBW-TV General Manager Michael Nurse said he was told by ABC this week that barring a last-minute change it is scheduled to be carried on Channel 7 at 12:30 a.m. Friday, following ABC's late-night Thursday programming.

Specht’s work with photojournalist Jeff Wick will be highlighted as the national TV program takes a deep dive into the church scandal here.

In a previous phone interview, Specht said he called a “Nightline” staffer to suggest the program look into the controversy in the Catholic Church in Western New York and expected that to be the focus. But after the program did some interviews, including one with Bishop Richard J. Malone, it decided to also highlight the personal story of Specht, a Catholic who has a younger brother, Mike, studying to become a priest.

“I went from pointing them in the right direction with my reports to now becoming one of the subjects,” Specht, a former Buffalo News reporter, said. “They changed the focus. They were genuinely interested in the controversy in Buffalo.”

Specht’s reports, “Fall From Grace: How Buffalo’s Bishop Hid Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo,” recently was honored at the national Investigative Reporters & Editor Award meetings. He and Wick previously won a first place New York State public service award from the Associated Press and a regional Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative reporting.

Here is what the IRE judges wrote when announcing the award: "Taking on a sitting bishop in real time is not an easy task. Reporters were able to win the trust of an insider in an institution that is known for its locked door of secrecy and obtain crucial smoking-gun documents proving the ongoing cover-up of abusive priests. The reporters, themselves Catholics, faced personal retribution in their community. Outstanding production values made a document-heavy investigation come alive."

Specht was interviewed twice for the “Nightline” program.

The interviews were done by Peter Madden of the program’s investigative unit and by Emmy Award-winning correspondent David Wright, who was born in Buffalo, attended middle school at Nichols, graduated from Williamsville East High School and had his first reporting job at WBFO after graduating from college.

Footage was shot for the program of Specht eating a meal at his home with his wife, Shannon, and their three young children.

“The timing has been good,” Specht said. “It is the first time I’ve been able to evaluate my feelings and process how this has challenged how I feel about my faith.”

He said “Nightline” also interviewed whistleblower Siobhan O’Connor and an accuser of one priest.

The sexual abuse allegations in the Buffalo Diocese were also the subject of CBS’ “60 Minutes” last fall.

Asked weeks ago what he thought Malone would think of the focus being on the Channel 7 reporter who has sharply questioned him at news conferences, Specht had a quick response.

“His face will probably turn beet red,” Specht said. “It won’t make him too happy.”








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