Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Parish, 1210 W. 78th Place, was suspended by Cardinal Francis George of the Archdiocese of Chicago on April 27. The decision to suspend Pfleger stemmed from the public dissent he showed the cardinal when he was asked to leave St. Sabina after 30 years of service.
Pfleger declined all interviews with the mainstream media, but a Columbia journalism class was able to interview him on April 28.
The interview was conducted as part of the Community News course and was set up by the class’s instructor several weeks ago, said sophomore journalism major Cassandra Norris, a student in the class.
“We didn’t think it was a big deal because, at the time, we didn’t know he was turning other news sources away,” Norris said.
A protest was held outside Cardinal George’s house, 1555 N. State Parkway, the same day the students interviewed him. Different media outlets from across the city attended to report on the story.
The students went to Cardinal George’s home with hopes of interviewing parishioners of St. Sabina for their story, which is to appear on ChicagoTalks.com. While talking with an employee from WGN-TV, they mentioned they spoke with Pfleger earlier in the day.
“We were disappointed we hadn’t gotten quotes from parishioners,” Norris said. “We were like, ‘Damn, we only have quotes from Fr. Pfleger,’ and everyone turned around and looked at us like we were raw meat.”
Several networks demanded they give them the audio file.
“As a journalism student, it was kind of exciting but really overwhelming to have six different networks calling our phones off the hook for hours,” Norris said.
Journalism faculty believe the experience was a great opportunity for the students to learn.
“I’m always happy when our students get a chance to do professional work in the real world, as opposed to sitting in the classroom and hearing about how it’s supposed to work,” said Suzanne McBride, associate chair of the Journalism Department.
As of press time, they have not given the audio recording to any other news outlets.