“Surely you’ve got better stories to cover than this.”
Thus spake a voice from an intercom at a locked doorway guarding the offices of Northside United Methodist Church. That suggestion had followed a “we have no comment” and a polite yet firm admonishment that we leave the church property immediately.
I wanted to debate the disembodied voice on its analysis of the story that had brought us to her church. The most obvious comeback was this: Lady, it’s the Monday after Christmas. How much news do you think is actually going on? For the previous two hours, I’d been making fruitless phone calls to public servants (on another story) who were still neck-deep in holiday vacationland. I could barely get human beings to answer the “press zero for the operator” switchboards.
“Sorry, ma’am. But this story is looking pretty good from where I sit three days after Christmas. Ma’am? Hello?”
The second argument would have been just as fruitless. I was at the door of the church because Atlanta police had just told reporters that the church had been burglarized. And not just burglarized.
1) The safe had been hauled out overnight, likely by two or more guys. The safe contained “a very large amount of currency” accumulated from collection plates passed during seven church services dating back to Christmas Eve.
2) Police suspected it was an inside job, because there was no sign of forced entry.
It helped that the church wasn’t some clapboard storefront with “Apostle James Richards” on the shingle. This was a big ol’ fancy church in Buckhead.
“Ma’am, I realize this may not sway you. But as news stories go, we’re not going to find much better today than a fancy church getting its safe heisted by some people who are likely on your staff or in your congregation. Hello? Ma’am?”
I never actually got to the point where I could argue the merits of the senior pastor giving us a TV interview: “Hey, a little publicity might actually prod folks to look for clues (like an unemployed fellow church member suddenly purchasing, say, tickets to Monte Carlo) and possibly help solve the case.”
“Surely you’ve got better stories to cover than this.” Click.
Everybody’s a critic.
I wouldn’t presume to tell the disembodied voice of a church lady how best to run the salvation business. But she’s got every right to tell me what news to cover.
Everybody else does it.
“Skullduggery in the rectory” was a phrase uttered by WXIA photog Steve Flood during our coverage. I’d intended to steal it for the TV story, but it slipped my mind until – now.