WXIA successfully walked an uneasy line Friday with a story about Earl Paulk, the megachurch Bishop / Lothario who died last weekend. Paulk careened from respectability to disgrace during the last fifteen years of his life. Much of that transition was painfully chronicled by WAGA and the AJC. WAGA had been particularly aggressive on the Paulk story, culminating with a hidden-camera sendoff last year, showing the octogenarian pitifully trying to reconcile with a a woman he’d sexually abused for more than a decade.
So it made sense that the Paulk family would choose a station other than WAGA to do a “legacy” interview in advance of Saturday’s funeral. Thankfully, Brenda Wood’s interview with Paulk’s brother, sister-in-law (with whom Paulk fathered a son on the sly), and that son struck just the right tone. During the four-minute piece, Wood covered some of the material that the family might have hoped to see during the piece, especially Paulk’s history with the civil rights movement.
But the piece started and concluded with Wood maintaining a just-right air of tough questioning about Paulk’s flaws. To their credit, the family made little effort to dismiss the ugly part of Paulk’s legacy. Wood skillfully tied it together in a well-produced package that showed Paulk as a high-profile guy whose failures clearly exceeded his successes. Grade: A-