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AP first with report of abuse, cover-up by French clergy

People pray for the victims of child sex abuse during a special service at the Sainte Jeanne d'Arc de la Mutualité Catholic Church in Saint Denis, outside Paris, Oct. 5, 2021. More than 200,000 children were abused by Catholic clergy in France over the past 70 years, according to a report released Oct. 5. (AP Photo / Michel Euler)

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AP’s Paris bureau broke news with an early scoop on the staggering scale — hundreds of thousands of victims — in a long-awaited report on sexual abuse in the French Catholic Church. That was just the start of a week of powerful and delicate AP coverage of France’s first nationwide reckoning with systemic church abuse, cover-ups and decades of trauma.

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Olivier Savignac, president of Parler et Revivre (Speak Out and Live Again) victims’ association, speaks during an interview with AP in Paris, Oct. 4, 2021. – AP Photo / Alex Turnbull

On the eve of the report’s release, Paris-based senior field producer Masha Macpherson and video journalist Alex Turnbull tracked down an abuse victim who had inside information about the findings — notably, an estimated 216,000 children had been abused by clergy over the past 70 years. Their on-camera interview saw massive use.

The following day,reporter Sylvie Corbet,senior producer Jeff Schaeffer,Macpherson and other Paris staffers,working closely with AP Vatican authority Nicole Winfield,produced fast-moving,comprehensive coverage on the release of the 2,500-page report.

AP had live video,six video edits and two stories,including emotional reaction from victims and bishops; victims’ groups shared AP’s stories online. And Schaeffer found a searing, intimate way to tell the victims’ side of the story in all formats: through the eyes of an actor who was abused by a priest and is working out the trauma onstage. Actor Laurent Martinez later shared his appreciation for AP’s respectful handling of his painful personal story.

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