Skullduggery in the rectory

The critic within: Northside UMC

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.

Not persuasive on a slow news day

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.

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About live apt fire

Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

6 thoughts on “Skullduggery in the rectory

  1. Ben Garrett

    Another example of how the public doesn’t really understand what news is–especially when they are an unwilling participant in the event. The inside theft of thousands of dollars from a big old Buckhead church right at Christmas is not much of a story? Come on. Probably a lot more interesting than what you would have gotten from one of those missing-in-action “public servants” Reminds me of the Sarah Palin supporters who castigate the “liberal media” for hounding their beloved when she is constantly stirring something to assure her name stays “out there.”

  2. arky

    Consider yourself lucky. This is normally where the other party proceeds to lecture us about we could have stopped [The War in Iraq/the election of Barack Obama] (take your pick depending on your political persuasion) if we were only interested in covering the “real news.” Cuz ya know, those stories got NO COVERAGE whatsoever…

  3. 2video

    It is always amazing when the victim always comes up and says “it must be a slow news day”. Now one would think the “christian” way to respond to “us pesty, nothing else to do journalists” would be to respond like this. We are deeply sadden, if, indeed one of our members felt the need to steal from the church. We are here to help our members through the Grace of God and our sincere committment to help our brothers and sisters. We encourage that if you are watching this through the power of the media that you please reconsider your trangressions and know, we are here to help you and we will pray for you. That easily could have been released in a statement instead of the cold, don’t you have some real news to cover, and by the way GET OFF OUR PROPERTY treatment of your brother or sister. Can I hear an AMEN?

  4. ScottH

    2Video makes a really good point about what could have been said. Having said that, you gotta bear in mind that the person you are
    talking to isn’t some polished CEO of a Fortune 500 business. They just are not prepared to speak calmly and reasonably to the media and to expect them to do so at the drop of a hat is asking a lot. As a reporter or photographer out on stories everyday of the week, it’s easy to forget that for an overwhelming majority of the population, the idea of a TV reporter knocking on your door (even one as friendly as Dale) is a scary thing and the knee jerk reaction is to get out of it in any way you can. Obviously it’s not the best reaction for people to have, but that’s just the way it is. Keep up the good blogging, Dale.

  5. JeremyK

    Reminds me of a time when my photographer and I were searching for a place to park the live truck while following-up on an officer-involved shooting at a busy intersection. We decided on the adjacent church parking lot.

    A sign in the lot read, “Parking is for church members and visitors only. Violators will be towed… and then forgiven.”

    They let us stay.


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