We here in one of the least-respected professions in America talk often about the "news hook" when kicking around story ideas. It's a term pregnant with high-minded concern for the readers and why a story matters. Or, it's a way to justify writing about crap we personally find interesting.
But the Church of Scientology and its chumbucket of woes really needs no news hook. Village Voice editor Tony Ortega's chronicling of Scientology demonstrates that the organization has become its own news cycle, with tales of alleged corruption, financial misdeeds and abuse.
That said, news outlets in Southern California, a region that's home to the church's international headquarters, out of which allegations of abuse have spilled for years, have by and large been silent about the goings-on in Scientology. This is especially true of local TV news. Car chases and structure fires are more important, to be certain, but is there an angle that could inspire anchors and anchorettes to report on what many consider a dangerous cult founded by a science fiction writer?
Yes! A celebrity divorce!
KABC-TV on Monday featured a report by Marc Brown that led with this:
"The bombshell divorce of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes has put Scientology back in the spotlight, with many people wondering what marriage is truly like inside the famously secretive church. Tonight, the story of a Southern California couple who met, fell in love and married in the Church of Scientology."
In the news world, if a reporter wonders something, his thoughts must be shared by "many", and therefore a story is born -- if he has the time and desire to do it. Or if it's Los Angeles and celebrities are tangentially involved.
Brown's report was quite good. Tanja and Stefan Castle were high-ups in the organization who were allegedly isolated from each other by the church, and eventually pressured to divorce when Stefan left the organization. The Castles told Brown how Stefan rescued Tanja in the dark of night from the church's International Base in Hemet. Really good stuff.
Here's some wisdom in a Page 4 column -- originally published in The Auditor Journal -- from the man himself, in which he says for the first time in history, there is something that in one lifetime delivers the answers to the eternal questions and delivers immortality as well:
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"Without in any way condemning or scorning any man's beliefs, Scientology arose from the ashes of a spiritless science an again asked -- and answered -- the eternal questions.
That the answers have the force of Truth is attested by the results. Instead of the sickness of religious India, Scientologists are seldom ill. Instead of internal warfare such as the riots of Alexandria, Scientologists live in relative harmony with each other
and have skills that respire re;atoms rapidly."
Would he get an amen from Stefan and Tanja Castle?