Ruskin, about 21 miles south of Tampa, is best known for its beaches and resorts -- and, like elsewhere in Florida, for the occasional gator encounter. But when it's the site of a power struggle in a church, it draws coverage from the state's largest newspaper.
But not necessarily informative coverage -- either for religion or basic journalism. The Tampa Bay Times is apparently there just for the tabloid-vintage fun of watching reverent people squabbling.
Thus far, the Times has devoted at least two articles to the infighting at the church, detailing a lawsuit by the pastor and stunts like changing the locks. But the lack of a seasoned religion writer -- the Times laid off its veteran specialist, Michelle Bearden, in 2014 -- shows in the coverage.
We get a promising lede in these 550 words, even a hint of religious literacy:
RUSKIN — Thou shall not steal, reads the eighth commandment, but Shirley Dail insists she had to take possession of the Ruskin Church of Christ Christian Church to save it.
In the two months since she seized the shrinking church, where she had worshipped off and on the past 16 years, the 80-year-old Dail has brought in a vibrant congregation, she said.
Now, the people she pushed out are in court fighting to get their space back.
The house of prayer on Second Avenue NW in Ruskin is a house divided, according to a lawsuit filed by the church July 14.
I'm also pleasantly surprised that the Times calls the church "a house divided," although it doesn't attribute Jesus as the source of the phrase. But the story is better on the lawsuit and the "he said, she said" part than on anything touching religion. Or even on following up the "he said, she said."