So, according to a headline from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a "major Presbyterian church" closed:
Question: How much ink did the local church's closing merit in that major daily newspaper?
Answer: 233 words on Page 1D of the Living section.
At least that's how the AJC handled the news, despite the hot social issue — think same-sex unions — involved in the story.
Let's start at the top:
On Sunday, after 66 years serving parishioners on Lawrenceville Highway, Rehoboth Presbyterian Church closed the doors to its sizable campus near Tucker, apparently a victim of changing social mores and a divided congregation.
The church recently voted to allow gay marriages to be performed there, following last year’s Supreme Court decision, and many influential members left, according to a GoFundMe page intended to help rescue Rehoboth.
This challenge was aggravated by the church’s financial difficulties, as it faced $160,000 in repairs, according to the same page.
Those three paragraphs amount to half the story. Let me rephrase: They amount to half of what the newspaper printed. They're nowhere near half the story of what actually happened.
"I believe I've seen an obit for a Chihuahua that was longer," said the GetReligion reader who tipped us to this story. (For the record, I Googled for the Chihuahua obit but couldn't find it. So put that claim under the heading of "funny but unverified.")
Why should a reader interested in religion news subscribe to the AJC? This story begs the question.
That "apparently" in the opening sentence screams: We didn't do any actual reporting! But we got some sketchy details off a website and quoted it!
From our tipster:
Was there no one from the church, the area presbytery or the national denomination (PCA? PCUSA? not said) who could comment? No one?
According to the church website, Rehoboth was affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). That denomination, as you may recall, made national news last year:
The rest of the story — the remaining three paragraphs — quotes an actual person. That person is identified as a former member named Gayle White. That name may ring a bell with Godbeat insiders.
I'll let the reader who tipped us chime in again:
Um, that wouldn't just happen to be the Gayle White who spent 37 years as an AJC reporter, would it? And that little fact isn't worth mentioning? Really?
Yes, it would be interesting to know if the Gayle White quoted is the one who spent 16 years as the religion writer for the AJC.
More from the tipster:
What happens to the church property? I don't know every corner of Atlanta, but I'm a-guessin' that something large enough to hold "six buildings, ball fields and other facilities" in a growing suburb would fetch a few dollars. How much? Who's buying (if any, yet)? What happens to the money?
Terrific questions. By the way, isn't it wonderful when GetReligion readers do our work for us?
There's still time for the AJC to delve deeper and produce a real news story on the closing of this "major Presbyterian church." Make it happen, Atlanta friends.