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Introducing Frisson Spotlight (1.1) Timothy Puko

Occasionally the Spectrum Blog will post a series of email exchanges with an interesting Adventist. We call these exciting multi-day conversations: Frisson Spotlight.
This weekend, we are chatting with Timothy Puko, the investigative reporter who wrote the article on the Costa Rica situation in the current issue of the journal. Feel free to join the conversation, propose questions, and post comments below.
Timothy Puko majored in journalism as an undergraduate at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and as a graduate student at Columbia University in New York. He went to public schools in suburban Pittsburgh and currently is a reporter for the Press of Atlantic City (NJ).
Greetings Timothy,
Welcome to the Spectrum Blog. And thanks for taking time during your vacation this week to share your Sevy journalist secrets.
Kudos on your investigative report, “On Becoming a Conference: The Costa Rican Story,” in the current (Vol. 34:3)
I’d like to start out our discussion by talking about your experience
researching and writing that piece and then maybe we can move into a
discussion about the role of journalism in the
Seventh-day Adventist church.
First a couple of quick questions: How did you get involved in the
Costa Rican story? How long did it take you to gather the evidence and write it? What was the most interesting
aspect of the investigation to you?
I really appreciated the tone of your reporting – it’s easy when
encountering this level of buck-passing and maleficence to sound
cynical or to see behind every stonewall a conspiracy. In the stories I
investigated on the corruption in the Lake Region Conference and the
strange 3ABN/Hope Ten Commandments Day fiasco, it became apparent that
incompetence and me-and-my-sycophants-first greed turned out to explain
a lot. Beyond the problems in Costa Rica, your report
seems to finally hinge on the question: Who has oversight – the
division or the general conference?  Did you get the impression that
the GC and the division were thinking
about solutions or merely pushing away questions?
How did the conversations with Inter-American Division President Leito
go? Was it difficult to get him to speak on the record and directly
answer questions? What about the ex-pats?
I really enjoyed the way that you structured the ending, the circle
tightens and we are left with the leadership either not reading the
evidence or dismissing the concerns of the membership. It’s like ending
a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story with all the characters saying that its
the other guy’s job to investigate. Someone should tell Dabrowski that
telling the demos, to go through
‘proper” channels which are supposed to correct themselves (?) is not
called democracy, but bureaucracy. Frankly, it’s a little Kafkaesque.
We’ve got laity calling for the GC to investigate the
division for ethics violations, the GC saying “we haven’t even looked
at the evidence, but let the division investigate itself” and the
division ignoring the evidence and dismissing the laity as unethical. Here I
wish that you had parsed out why Leito would dismiss Scarone when
Humberto Rasi, a semi-retired GC official, supports his call for GC
oversight. I would hope that Leito realizes that calling Scarone
“unethical” needs some kind of support especially when Scarone has 418
pages of evidence on Costa Rica and the cooperation of Rasi. Any thoughts on why Leito responded that way?
Now that the experience is over, what are your thoughts on the role
of the investigative journalist in Adventism? And what decisions did
you make to both tell the story and affect the people involved?
Best, Alexander

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