Nikki Battiste’s Reporting on Clergy Abuse Becomes Priority for CBS News

Nikki Battiste's Reporting on Clergy Abuse
Courtesy of CBS News

Nikki Battiste’s work at CBS News has been keeping her up nights.

The CBS News correspondent has over the last several months reported out a group of harrowing stories for “CBS Evening News” about a problem that has affected millions and is only now coming to greater light. She has since last summer kept tabs on legal probes into the behavior of Catholic clergy, and resulting investigations.

“There are nights I stay up an extra hour just responding to messages,” she says in a recent interview while on the ground in Rome. “I want to respond to every person who reached out to share their story.”

Battiste was early on the story last summer, discovering through a source about victims of alleged child abuse by clergy being called to testify before a grand jury in Pennsylvania. This weekend, she covered  a convocation of more than 100 Roman Catholic bishops from around the globe for a summit called by Pope Francis to address what many feel has become an epidemic.

Battiste is from Pennsylvania and had a reliable source tip her off to the grand jury activity in that state. That helped her get information that resulted in reports that included interviews with victims the Pennsylvania Attorney General and Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who defended his actions while he was Archbishop of Pittsburgh.

When CBS News executives became aware of the reporter’s line on the story, they worked to broaden its exposure. “I called all of our executive producers and senior producers from all of our platforms,” said Kim Godwin, the CBS News executive who was recently elevated to executive vice president of news from vice president. “How do we own this?”

The feeling at CBS News is that the story should be seen by as many people as possible, the executive said. “You just look at the number of people that this story could impact. There are a billion Catholics in the world, more than 50 million here in the United States.”

Battiste has worked CBS News’ investigative unit as well as the production team behind the “Eye on America” segment on “CBS Evening News.” She has reported on an investigation into priests at the archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and caught up with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, at a conference in Baltimore in November after he had denied multiple requests for an interview. He had kept 2 Galveston-Houston priests accused of abuse in active ministry.

“A lot of our work had led to more work,” says Battiste, who notes the reports tend to encourage others with information about abuse to come forward and discuss it.

She is likely to  have more reports on the topic. “I don’t see an ending,” says Godwin. ”There are so many directions to go and people have so much to say.”