September 22, 2008
Why news crews were waiting for Tony Alamo church raid
You probably heard yesterday about the raid of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries compound in Arkansas. (If you hadn’t, authorities were investigating allegations of child pornography and six minors have been placed in state custody.) Alamo has, um, a colorful past—his church has been raided three times and he was previously charged, and acquitted, with child abuse and threatening to kidnap a judge and convicted of tax evasion—but that’s not why the Bible Belt’s press corps was ready for this raid.
Frank Lockwood, the Bible Belt Blogger, explains:
When state and federal law enforcement officials swooped into Tony Alamo Ministries, many, if not most, of the major news organizations in Arkansas were in Texarkana, Ark. watching it all unfold.
This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. The raid was originally scheduled for sometime in October. But on Friday, somebody in the U.S. Attorney’s office inadvertently sent an e-mail about the raid, several weeks early, to 50 media outlets across the state.
With the cat out of the bag, law enforcement officials moved up their time schedule. Newspapers had to decide whether to go with the story in Saturday’s editions or wait a day or two. With children reportedly in the compound and with allegations of child abuse, every news organization in the state voluntarily refrained from writing about the raid until it had already begun.