A good thief touched by the Passion

"Gibson movie spurs surrender, robber says"

That was the headline that greeted me this morning in the Palm Beach Post as I headed to the airport to fly to New York City. At least, that's the headline that's up in the online edition.

I'm currently up here in the extreme northern section of South Florida (or is South Florida the southern tip of New York City?) where I spoke in two workshops at the spring edition of the National College Media Convention. Today's highlight: New York Times chairman and publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr., on why everything is just fine now at the world's greatest newspaper in the wake of post-Jayson Blair reforms. Blogs had little or nothing to do with that journalistic earthquake, by the way.

Anyway, back to the story of James Anderson the good thief and "The Passion of the Christ." The Palm Beach Post sort of played this story sort of straight, even though this is a newspaper that is downright hostile to traditional forms of religious faith. Here's a sample:

The reasoning process that brought Anderson from total freedom to a jail cell seemed a complicated one, according to investigators who interviewed him.

When a sheriff's detective asked him why he gave himself up, Anderson said he was stirred deeply after watching The Passion of the Christ and felt compelled to come clean.

"He said, 'I saw The Passion and that made my decision,' " sheriff's office spokesman Paul Miller said. "And he sort of urged (the detective) to see the movie too."

Still, I think it's kind of fun to imagine what writers at other newspapers would have done with this. Look it over. Anyone want to take a stab at a paragraph or two of Frank Rich copy on this story line? What would be his lead? How about the gang at Entertainment Weekly?

Finally, you have to love the populist touch they added with the reader's poll in the sidebar. This is like a bad set up for Leno, don't you think?

Your Opinion: "If you had committed a crime, would you be compelled to confess after seeing 'The Passion of the Christ?' "

And the choices, of course, are: "Yes," "No" and "Haven't seen it."

You have to ask: Are Palm Beach County robbers more likely to have seen this film than not? What is the connection?

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