In the Papers: Megachurch Gets Mondo Coverage--Initially, I defended the Albuquerque Journal's coverage of Calvary Chapel's interior bickerings, which grabbed A-section headlines throughout the month of March. A friend complained to me. “Why do I have to see it every single day?” she asked. And I said something to the effect of, “They have lots of members. That's why it's important.”
But after the eleventy billionth article (OK, it was more like the sixth) about Senior Pastor Pete Nelson resigning because of a former senior pastor's continued involvement with the church, my argument was sounding pretty wimpy. (I wish I could give a more specific number of how many pieces were written, but the Journal's website is so unnavigable, it's impossible to really tell, even with an advanced Google search on my side.)
So, friend, you were right.
Why did it dominate the front page? Why was every new development of the megachurch treated as übernews? Probably because, as Alibi Editor Steve Allen says, when there's blood in the water ... .
The article in which ex-Pastor Skip Heitzig grumps at his critics was in the prized “most e-mailed in the past seven days” slot as of March 22, according to the Journal's website. Sure, it's interesting. It's even important, given how much money is being moved around by that church and Heitzig. But I felt a bit like a rubbernecker reading it. In these articles, the Journal was capitalizing on churchgoers and nonchurchgoers alike—members of Calvary buying papers to watch their church slosh around in the mud, and everyone else dropping their 50 cents for the drama. Because when you get down to it, drama's why everyone was reading. You know it. I know it. Calvary knows it. The Journal knows it.