When I asked to interview Paul Beyerl for this week, it was because I strongly believe in preserving the wisdom of our elders. Now in his seventies, Beyerl was easy to talk to in part because he’s not put off by the idea that he’s an elder. What I wasn’t expecting from the conversation was news that his church’s center would be uprooted and moved in the near future, after 24 years establishing a botanical garden in the suburbs of Seattle.
That’s the joy of journalism: discovering interesting information that the people holding it don’t necessarily think is newsworthy. It takes good questions, intuition, luck, and often a lot of time to get those answers.
Earlier in the week, The Wild Hunt posted an update about the Druid Daniel Scott Holbrook, based on a court transcript in which the prosecutor asserted in closing arguments that Holbrook had not downloaded hundreds of images accidentally, as he’s claimed. There were people who had that information when I wrote the original article, but for various reasons didn’t believe it to be newsworthy, ergo I didn’t find out until I saw the transcript, and only then did I start asking questions.
The occasional detractor of the news site for which I write will complain about a lack of investigative journalism. I have to wonder if such people understand what that kind of work requires. While it’s not technically difficult, conducting investigations takes quite a bit of time. Back when newspapers were the go-to source for news, there were reporters who spent weeks or months on a single story, talking to people and sifting through documents in search of the truth.
I would love to throw myself into that kind of work, but if I spent 40 hours a week on chasing down mysteries in the Pagan community, I wouldn’t have time for any other writing. I contribute to several other news sites and publications, all of which pay me a flat write per story, stories which take time to research and write. The Wild Hunt is no different in that regard. My family couldn’t afford to give up those other sources of income, and The Wild Hunt treasury isn’t big enough to pay me what I would need to do that full time.
What’s required for deeper, more thorough investigations? Money. Lots and lots of money. To turn just one reporter into an investigative machine would require more than doubling how much money is donated during the annual fund drive. I base that on my own situation, which is unusual because I’m not the primary earner. Replacing my lost income, plus adding a new reporter to the weekly rotation (because I likely wouldn’t have a finished story every week, and the ten-year-plus tradition of new content daily could not be broken) would run about $20,000.
I stand ready to do more for the Pagan communities. Are Pagans and polytheists willing to step up and make that possible?
7 thoughts on “Cultivating sources”
I agree. If we want better quality and quantity, we do have pay for it.
I understand how the reporting is problematic, given what you have to work with. I think that people do expect too much from the Wild Hunt on certain things. The Holbrook case is one of those which roiled the community. But you guys were fair in reporting the basic story.
So I guess the problem I had with the Pagan Community as a whole (not just TWH, nor the ADF Mother Grove) was they took his word for granted as to what happened. It was (and remains) a completely implausible story. Yet people still defend the guy, despite the evidence. Because “the man” was invovled”, clearly he was being rail roaded.
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Lacking evidence, I think it’s suspect either way. No independent witness has come forward to say under oath that he admitted to doing something wrong, nor has any independent witness corroborated his version under oath.
It’s natural to want an answer, and frustrating not to have a clear one. We all tend to fill in those gaps with pieces that make sense to us, like the scientists in Jurassic Park who plugged in frog DNA for missing dinosaur sequences.
I think the ADF response was not an exoneration, but an appropriate response given the lack of evidence either way. There is a reason why judges, journalists, and scientists strive to act on evidence rather than intuition: it’s really hard to evaluate where intuition ends and bias begins.
No it was not an exoneration, it was however in haste. I tend to trust a legal document that is on record, over an improbable story of malicious torrents containing kiddie porn. Ocam’s razor. I’m a scientist (no dinosaur DNA here however) I go for the logical answer. My guyt agrees. He’s guilty, and should own it.
If he does, or someone with acknowledge of intent comes forward, that would certainly be newsworthy.
Well clearly I am speaking of ideal situations, not what he will do. The unvirtuous do not act in a manner they should. In the very least, he is a theif, at the very worst, he is a pedophile. The “truth” is likely in the middle.
No argument there.