One might think that KSHB-TV41 investigative reporter Ryan Kath might be resting on his laurels after capturing five Mid-America Emmy Awards for his work last month.
Don’t count on it.
The area’s leading TV journalist will unveil a massive investigation titled “Trail of Betrayal” on Monday night on the NBC affiliate examining the Boy Scouts’ ’perversion files” in Kansas City of sexual abuse between 1971-1991.
It was a project tackled by the Scripps investigative unit in Washington D.C. which will provide a national overview of the story airing Sunday night.
Kath and Melissa Greenstein, executive producer of the station’s I-unit, filtered out all of the KC area files this summer. From there they looked for incidents where allegations of sexual abuse had surfaced, or where a Scout leader had been removed from the organization, but there was no evidence it had ever been reported to law enforcement.
Kath told Bottom Line the five-month investigation might have been his biggest challenge as an investigative reporter.
“This was probably the toughest investigation I’ve worked on because of the sensitive subject matter,” he says. “There’s really no manual for how to contact someone out of the blue to ask about alleged abuse from 30 years ago.”
“This was extremely challenging and emotionally taxing,” he adds. “The toughest part was gaining the trust of sources. In one case, it took months of correspondence just to get an alleged victim to have lunch with me. Some people expressed a willingness to talk, scheduled a meeting time, but then cancelled and I have not heard from them since.”
In fact, instead of one, long Web story, KSHB decided to break up the content into eight separate stories that are all grouped on one page. The national release of what has been termed the Scouts’ “perversion files” led to the local story.
“We had access to a similar group of Boy Scouts’ files from 1971-1991,” he says. “I filtered out the KC files and tried to find out what happened in the incidents where there were (sometimes graphic) allegations of abuse, but no reports to police.”
Kath spoke to abusers and those who were abused.
In fact, one former scout leader, 84, admitted to abuse nearly four decades earlier.
“I felt so bad, so nasty, so cheap and so dirty that nothing like that ever happened again,”Rolland Woods told Kath. “It’s been so many years that I haven’t thought about it.”
When asked what he would say to the person he had molested, Woods said, “I would tell him I’m very, very sorry. I know the good Lord has forgiven me for all these things.”
Other aspects Kath uncovered included:
* A paper trail that suggested an 11-year-old boy’s abuse could have been prevented. They tracked him down in the Lansing Correctional Facility. He told Kath his life was never the same after the abuse, and had no idea the Boy Scouts had known about his abuser.
* The identity of an accused molester remained a mystery to a father, son for three decades… until KSHB showed up at the door 33 years later with the secret file in hand.
* The long-time executive of the KC area Boy Scouts (who’s now 90-years-old) discussing the system and why the incidents were not reported to police at the time.
It looks like a blockbuster sweeps piece. And it also looks as if Kath will have to clear some more space in his trophy case.