The Associated Press has a 675-word trend story on closed churches finding second lives as breweries.
I loved the headline, which includes a punny reference to "Holy spirits."
And the story itself starts out as if it's going to be interesting and informative. To some extent, I guess the piece turns out that way.
But here's what's frustrating to me: The AP report hopscotches all over the place, fails to reflect the voice of a highly relevant source and generally tries to do way too much in too little space. There's no way to know if this is a reporting problem or one created at the editing stage. We do know a memo was issued a few years ago limiting most AP stories to 300 to 500 words.
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP) — Ira Gerhart finally found a place last year to fulfill his yearslong dream of opening a brewery: a 1923 Presbyterian church. It was cheap, charming and just blocks from downtown Youngstown.
But soon after Gerhart announced his plans, residents and a minister at a Baptist church a block away complained about alcohol being served in the former house of worship.
“I get it, you know, just the idea of putting a bar in God’s house,” Gerhart said. “If we didn’t choose to do this, most likely, it’d fall down or get torn down. I told them we’re not going to be a rowdy college bar.”
Based on those first three paragraphs, is there any source from whom we might expect to hear as the story keeps going? The Baptist minister perhaps?
That was my thinking, but he or she never appears.
Instead, we get this later on:
Gerhart’s is scheduled to open this month after winning over skeptics like the Baptist minister and obtaining a liquor license.
OK, I suppose we have no choice but to take your word for it.
The same is true for the trend itself, for which AP provides no sourcing:
With stained glass, brick walls and large sanctuaries ideal for holding vats and lots of drinkers, churches renovated into breweries attract beer lovers but can grate on the spiritual sensibilities of clergy and worshippers.
At least 10 new breweries have opened in old churches across the country since 2011, and at least four more are slated to open in the next year. The trend started after the 2007 recession as churches merged or closed because of dwindling membership. Sex abuse settlements by the Roman Catholic Church starting in the mid-2000s were not a factor because those payments were largely covered by insurers, according to Terrence Donilon, spokesman for the archdiocese of Boston.
Is it just me or does that reference to the sex abuse settlements just seem to come out of nowhere?
The story opens with a Presbyterian-Church-turned-brewery in Ohio, then suddenly we're hearing from the spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston. What? (By the way, AP's own stylebook calls for capitalizing archdiocese as part of a proper name like Archdiocese of Boston.)
Did I mention hopscotching? The reference to the Youngstown brewery opening next month is followed by a quote from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati (even through the brewery is at a former Presbyterian church and Youngstown has its own Catholic diocese):
“We don’t want (churches) to become a liquor store,” said Michael Schafer, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, which has imposed restrictions on turning closed churches into beer halls. “We don’t think that’s appropriate for a house of worship.”
AP does capitalize archdiocese there. Nice job.
Anyway, it's Friday. I've had a long week. Maybe my brain is simply fried and I'm missing something. Perhaps this story isn't as confusing or jumbled as I'm making it.
If so, please comment and help me understand.
Enjoy the weekend!