Tony Ortega (born 1963) is an American blogger who is best known for his daily blog about the Church of Scientology called The Underground Bunker. He was executive editor of The Raw Story from 2013 until 2015. Previously, he had been a journalist at the New Times LA, the editor-in-chief of the Broward-Palm Beach New Times from 2005 to 2007 and the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice from 2007 to 2012. In 2015 he was executive editor of the YouTube channel TheLipTV. He is author of the non-fiction book The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, about journalist Paulette Cooper and the Church of Scientology's attempts to silence her after her own book was published.
Ortega at HowdyCon 2019
|Born||Los Angeles, California|
|Education||California State University, Fullerton|
Background and educationEdit
Tony Ortega was raised in Anaheim, California. He received the John Jay Scholarship to attend Columbia University, where he completed three semesters before continuing his studies at California State University, Fullerton where he obtained his B.A. and M.A. in English. Ortega pursued more graduate work at UC Santa Cruz prior to landing his first journalism job as a freelancer at the Phoenix New Times in 1995. In 1996, Ortega reported on alleged corruption in the office of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, writing a series of stories concerning "misuse of state funds, poor morale inside the department, the high cost of the sheriff's posses and evidence of abuse of jail inmates," for which he was nominated for the Arizona Press Club's Virg Hill Award in 1997.
As a graduate student at the University of California, Ortega researched the California Agricultural Strike 1933 under the tutelage of Louis Owens. He later wrote an article about his research in the Village Voice. In her review of Ortega's article, Carolyn Kellogg wrote, "When Ortega gets his grandfather and great half-uncle to tell him stories of the strike, it's exactly the first-person narrative he'd been hoping for. But I found, reading the stories in his article, that they were simply personal anecdotes — interesting anecdotes, sure, but simple anecdotes. The men camped under eucalyptus trees. They played clarinet and violin for the strikers."
Tony's father, also named Tony Ortega (1938-2019), was a musician, guitarist, and song-writer, starting in the late 1950's and throughout his life. He also had a career in the steel industry, joining at the entry level and rising through the ranks to become a general manager.
Alternative weeklies and other mediaEdit
Ortega spent nearly seventeen years working for various alternative weekly newspapers in the Voice Media Group (VMG). He has worked at the Phoenix New Times, the New Times LA and The Pitch. His earliest positions ranged from staff writer to assistant editor and managing editor. In 2001 Ortega spent time with and profiled detective and conspiracy theorist William Dear for the New Times Los Angeles newspaper after Dear spent several years constructing a case around Jason Simpson (son of O.J Simpson) in the O. J. Simpson murder case. Ortega was highly critical of his methods, in particular spending two weeks impersonating a doctor in an attempt to access Jason Simpson's medical records and was later criticized for manipulating the story in order to write a book for personal gain.
Criticism of ScientologyEdit
Tony Ortega first reported on Scientology in 1995 while working at the Phoenix New Times and continued covering the subject throughout his career under various media outlets in the Voice Media Group. In September 2012, Ortega publicly announced his resignation from The Village Voice in a post to the Voice's "Runnin' Scared" blog. According to former staffers, Ortega's "exit from the Voice was not his decision" and "his relentless pursuit of scoops on the controversial church may have been a distraction during his final months at the paper."
The executive editor of the Voice told the Media Decoder blog of The New York Times that Ortega "...did a great job for us and managed a difficult transition in a miserable economy... During that time he became the single most informed reporter on Scientology. No one is better positioned to write the book on that organization.” According to a 2012 Observer article, some staffers at the Voice expressed concern over Ortega's exclusive focus on writing anti-Scientology pieces. “He was increasingly obsessed with Scientology and had neglected almost all of his editorial duties at the paper,” an ex-staffer said. “Sometimes he wouldn’t even edit features.”
Ortega was featured in Alex Gibney's documentary Going Clear, discussing how Scientology smeared critics. On the way to the Sundance Film Festival both Ortega and another film participant, ex-Scientologist Marc Headley, were surveilled and photographed at Salt Lake City airport by presumed members of the church, with the New York Times noting "The documentary showed ex-Scientologists being harassed and surveilled, a tactic that according to the film, is part of the doctrine of the church: its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, said that all of the church’s attackers were criminals whose own misdeeds should be exposed".
In 2015 Ortega was informed by the United States Attorney that his emails had been hacked by New York private investigator Eric Saldarriaga in the previous year. Saldarriaga had received payment by clients whose names remain private and used an illegal overseas hacking group to break into several private accounts including Ortega's and ex-Scientologist and former church spokesperson Mike Rinder. Both Ortega and Rinder filed victim impact statements and requested the client's name(s) be made public. Goldstein in the New York Times reported "The client is said to be someone who has done investigations on behalf of the Church of Scientology, said people briefed on the case but not authorized to speak publicly." 50 victims of hacking were identified and Saldarriaga was given a 3-month prison sentence in June 2015. Saldarriaga claimed he feared retaliation from naming clients while cooperating with the FBI and was never required to name the client publicly in court.
In September 2018 Ortega started publishing short video clips of issues in Scientology that had been previously covered by his website. In the first video he linked Doug Dohring, the founder and CEO of Age of Learning, Inc. (also known as ABCmouse) with large donations to the Church of Scientology.
The Unbreakable Miss LovelyEdit
In May 2015, Ortega released a book about Scientology critic Paulette Cooper and her conflict with the organization, entitled The Unbreakable Miss Lovely, which was published by Silvertail Books, an imprint of London-based literary agent and independent publisher Humfrey Hunter. The book focuses on the journalist Paulette Cooper, codenamed 'Miss Lovely' by the church, who became one of the first journalists to investigate the practices of harassment and intimidation of anyone who spoke publicly against the organization with her own published book, The Scandal of Scientology. Ortega's research into Cooper's story uncovered many previously unpublished operations by the church against Cooper, and included testimony from FBI Special Agent Christine Hansen. In an official response to the book from the church a spokesperson declined to revisit the subject and referred to Ortega as 'a parasite'. The book was well received by critics of Scientology and has been described as among the best of the genre as well as shocking. Although Cooper reached a financial settlement with the church in 1985, Ortega was accompanied by Cooper on some of the subsequent international book tour.
After leaving the Voice in September 2012, Ortega began writing a freelance blog entitled The Underground Bunker that is focused solely on Scientology. The website has been described as 'devastating' to the organisation and 'influential'. It concentrates on monitoring activity within Scientology and is updated daily.
The Cult Awareness PodcastEdit
- Ortega, Tony (3 August 2011). "Tony Ortega, editor of The Village Voice and Scientology enthusiast". The Church of Lazlo (Interview). Interviewed by Lazlo. Kansas City: 96.5theBUZZ. Retrieved 20 August 2013.
- Weiner, Allison Hope (host) (10 January 2013). "Truth Beyond Scientology Hysteria with Tony Ortega". Media Mayhem. Season 2013. Episode 73. TheLip.tv. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
- Cooper, Roxanne. "Village Voice editor Tony Ortega to helm editorial at Raw Story". Raw Story. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
- Gettys, Travis. "WATCH: California candidate stunned when he's outed as Scientology spy at City Council meeting". Raw Story. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
- Dessem, Matthew. "New TV Show Will Argue That O.J. Is Innocent". The Slate. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
- Isenberg, Robert (September 11, 2015). "Tony Ortega to Discuss Scientology and the Changing Face of Media at ASU in Downtown Phoenix". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved April 11, 2016.
- Neal Ungerleider (18 July 2001). "So What Do You Do, Tony Ortega". Interviews. Mediabistro. Retrieved 20 August 2013.
- Dylan (5 March 2007). "Confirmed: Tony Ortega New Editor Of Voice; Half-Mexican Kid From LA No Longer Has Mohawk". FishbowlNY. Newspapers. Mediabistro. Retrieved 20 August 2013.
- Keach Hagey (5 March 2007). "Tony Ortega Named Village Voice Editor". The Village Voice. Retrieved 20 August 2013.
- "2012 Vision & Visionaries: Cal State Fullerton Honors Eight Distinguished Alumni". CSUF News. Cal State Fullerton. 24 April 2012. Retrieved 20 August 2013.
- "On the Virg". 3 April 1997. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
- Carolyn Kellogg (19 August 2008). "John Steinbeck's migrant workers". Los Angeles Times. Jacket Copy. Retrieved 21 August 2013.
- Tony Ortega (12 August 2008). "Louis Owens and John Steinbeck's Ghosts". The Village Voice. Retrieved 20 August 2013.
- Tony Ortega. "Tony Ortega: Musician, songwriter, and steel executive, 1938-2019". The underground Bunker. Tony Ortega. Retrieved 7 July 2019.
- Staff (20 May 2004). "Press Club: Winners Circle". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
- Jerome du Bois (9 August 2003). "Local Visual Arts Coverage". The Tears of Things. Retrieved 20 August 2013.
- Rowe, Sam. "OJ Simpson: was he innocent all along?". The Telegraph. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
- Tony Ortega (30 November 1995). "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlatans". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
- Tony Ortega (14 September 2012). "Scientology Watchers: A Message from Tony Ortega". The Village Voice. Runnin’ Scared News Blog. New York. Retrieved 20 August 2013.
- Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke (14 September 2012). "Runnin' Scared: Was Tony Ortega Pushed Out at the Village Voice?". The New York Observer. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
- David Sessions (6 July 2012). "The Web's Best Scientology Longreads". The Daily Beast. Longreads (weekly). Retrieved 22 August 2013.
- Joe Pompeo (9 August 2013). "Catching up with former Village Voice editor Tony Ortega". Capital New York. Retrieved 21 August 2013.
- Carr/Sisario, David/Ben (September 14, 2012). "Village Voice Is Losing Its Editor in Chief and Music Editor". New York Times. Retrieved 21 December 2013.
- Bloomgarden-Smoke, Kara. "Runnin' Scared: Was Tony Ortega Pushed Out at the Village Voice?". The Observer. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
- "TONIGHT: TONY ORTEGA'S BOOK EXPLORES SCIENTOLOGY'S WAR ON ITS CRITICS". Westword. 17 Jul 2015.
- Buckley, Cara. "Sundance 2015: Scientology Documentary Draws Crush of Festgoers". New York Times. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
- Goldstein, Matthew. "Hired Hacker Who Named Clients Now Fears Retaliation". New York Times. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
- Goldstein, Matthew. "Investigator Gets 3 Months in Prison in Hacking Case". New York Times. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
- Goldstein, Matthew. "Prison Term Sought for Private Eye Who Hacked Email". New York Times. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
- Ortega, Tony (18 September 2018). "The Underground Bunker". tonyortega.org. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
- Christopher Zara (14 September 2012). "Village Voice Editor Tony Ortega Is Leaving To Write A Scientology Book". International Business Times. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
- Joshua Farrington (January 16, 2015). "Scientology account to Silvertail". thebookseller.com. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
- "How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper". Kirkus. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
- Nestel, M.L. "Scientology's First 'Victim'". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
- Lippard, Jim. "Scientology's Worst Abuses Against a Journalist Revealed". eSkeptic. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
- Cannane, Steve. "How the Church of Scientology tried to bring down journalist Paulette Cooper, aka Miss Lovely". ABC News Australia. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
- "Tony Ortega & Paulette Cooper: The Unbreakable Miss Lovely". Center for Inquiry Canada. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
- Sweeney, John. "Going Clear: the film Scientologists don't want you to see". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
- Alexander, Harriet. "Is Scientology the reason why Mariah Carey and Australian billionaire James Packer broke up?". The Telegraph. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
- Ortega, Tony. "Introducing The Cult Awreness Podcast". The Underground Bunker. Retrieved 13 September 2019.