The Harvest Bible Chapel Scandal and The Chicago Tribune and a Deep Regret at This Blog

This post came out of a conversation with someone from the ex-Harvest Bible Chapel community last night. As a writer and someone who likes to consume the news, I have long had a deep respect for The Chicago Tribune. And yet the Tribune dropped the ball and failed ot cover the Harvest Bile Chapel scandal in detail or depth. Unlike The Daily Herald which went out of its way and did some solid work.  Hopefully The Chicago Tribune learns from its mistakes so that the community can be better served. 

“Let us dare to read, think, speak and write.”

John Adams 

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.

2 Timothy 4:1-2 NIV

Chicago Tribune extra for September 11, 2001 

Last night I was speaking with someone from the former Harvest Bible Chapel community and as I was thinking in bed this blog post came to my mind. Since I have written quite a bit about Harvest Bible Chapel there is one aspect to the scandal that disappoints me. Let me explain myself below. 

 

I’m an Establishment Individual 

First off I am an establishment individual. Though I write a blog I do not believe in fringe media on either side and weigh sources on the internet with caution. This writer loves the newspaper and has long read it. When I was growing up in Fresno, California I used part of my allowance to get a partial Los Angeles Times subscription. To this day I can recall sitting at the dining room table in my parents house and reading the Los Angeles Times. It was an exciting time to read the news as Communism was falling in Eastern Europe. I read the Times and I adored it. My Dad liked The Wall Street Journal and I also liked to read that as well. The best part of the paper in my view was the op-ed and editorials which I always checked out first. At the time it was very intellectual, thought provoking and gave me much to think about. When I was in college I used to try different papers each semester. One semester I tried The Boston Globe, and another The Washington Times. My opinion on the Washington Times went south when I saw that it was owned by the Reverend Moon and the Moonies which helped explains its coverage and views at times. And with that I liked to try different papers.

When I attended Marquette University in Milwaukee both in grad school and afterward when I held down my first apartment. I subscribed to The Chicago Tribune.  I loved the Trib. My Mom’s family was from the south side of Chicago and for my Mom the Trib was an institution. From what I read years ago Abraham Lincoln subscribed to the Tribune and respected the paper. So I long have had respect for the Chicago Tribune and thought it to be quality journalism. 

 

The Chicago Tribune and the Harvest Bible Chapel Scandal 

When the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal started in the back of my mind I thought The Chicago Tribune would step up and do some solid reporting, investigating and journalism. And why shouldn’t they? This was an important story in the backyard of Chicago. So as the scandal got going and I was starting to write about it something started to happen. I had people caught up in Harvest with valuable information and they were telling me that they approached the Tribune and other news stations but they were not being noticed or listened to. Yet here was me, and I was listening to them. On all stories I write I try and evaluate and weigh sources. Just because someone contacts me does not mean that I will immediately use them. I have to verify them. Well as these sources were good and gave me information I started using them. They in turn also directed other people to me. While the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal was going I kept thinking when is the Tribune going to get involved?

In January of 2019 on Twitter The Chicago Tribune announced a story about James MacDonald and I thought to myself, “Okay the Calvary arrived.” I even wrote about it which you can see in this post, “The Chicago Tribune has Started to Report on the Harvest Bible Chapel Scandal.” So after that article there were a couple of others but the coverage was flat. I remember thinking to myself at the time, “When is the Tribune going to do deep dives of finances, child safety policy, Camp Harvest, etc..?.” And for the most part the Tribune didn’t do very much. They even did a puff piece that this blog thought was shoddy which I criticized in the following post. “Analysis of the Disappointing Chicago Tribune Article About Harvest Bible Chapel.” And that was it. For someone who had a high amount of respect for the Chicago Tribune I was deeply disappointed to not see more. They certainly let the community they serve down. 

 

My Hope is the Chicago Tribune Will Learn From its Mistakes For Next Time

Here is the deal and this is one of the things that bothers me. As I explained in the introduction of this post I am an establishment individual. The Chicago Tribune in this Harvest Bible Chapel scandal really could have shown how crucial the local press is in journalism. Compare the Tribune to the reporting of the Susan Sarkauskas of The Daily Herald who followed it and stayed on top of the Harvest Bible Chapel story. Susan nailed it. And in an era of dying local news sources Susan Sarkauskas revealed why the local press is so important to communities. I certainly hope the Manny Bucurs, the Dan Georges and JUlie Roys subscribe ot the Daily Herald. Publications like them need to be supported. However, I hope the Chicago Tribune will take a step back and realize that mistakes were made so that next time they will not drop the ball again. I follow and see some of the Harvest crowd on Twitter and see some of the news sources that some read. The Tribune could have won over a number of people by honest hard work and earned them as readers. That was a loss, and I recognize that myself. It became one of the deepest regrets I had about the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal. I am not into tribalism but as a strong supporter of the establishment when it fails it should be acknowledged and lessons should be learned. The free press after all is not always a given. And it should never be taken for granted. One of the saddest stories that I have been following is the decline and death of democracy in Hungary. In 1989 Hungary overthrew Communism as part of the Eastern European revolutions. Today Hungary is abandoning democracy and the government of Viktor Orban is cracking down on free press, driving it from the county or silencing it by buying it to control the opinion and coverage. If you want to read more about that you can do so here, here, here, here, and here. That’s why the press is important. This blog doesn’t view itself as a competitor to the free press I have my niche.  And I would like to keep it like that as it writes. But Chicago Tribune I hope you learn from your error and mistakes in covering the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal.