“If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”
That was the maxim at the famed City News Bureau, where young reporters covered crime, fires, courts and city hall for Chicago’s major newspapers, TV and radio stations. Over its 115-year existence (1890-2005), some of America’s best journalists got their starts there. Even some of my own NIU journalism grads worked at City News in its final years. It was gritty, often grim work, sifting through police reports of murder and mayhem and then checking everything out by going to those neighborhoods and finding eyewitnesses. When a story came out of City News, you could trust it because you knew the reporters had done the legwork.
Now imagine that, during the Roman Empire, City News had a Jerusalem bureau. You’re a news reporter on overnight duty. A wild report comes in from the sleepy suburb of Bethlehem. A bunch of angels have appeared in a field, announcing the birth of some baby whom they say is the Messiah.
Uh, sure. All that’s missing from this story is Bigfoot arriving in a flying saucer. But apparently something happened out there. So you hop on your camel and ride to Bethlehem to check it out. You arrive at the stable mentioned in the reports and, sure enough, there’s a couple with a newborn baby. All right, that’s a little odd, but understandable given that the inns were full with people in town for the census. The baby looks normal enough. The mom seems to have a knowing smile, but there are no angels in sight. Nothing to see here.
You ask the parents about the angel story.
“Oh, that was some shepherds who showed up right after the baby was born. They seemed pretty scared.”
Great. Your only eyewitnesses are … shepherds? The dirty guys who wander around fields all night protecting sheep? They probably imagine all kinds of crazy stuff out there in the dark. And who knows how much they had to drink?
The parents go on to mention the angels. They saw one, too, a few months earlier.
“Uh-huh,” you say, slowly putting away your notebook and shuffling toward the door. You thank them and depart, deciding to put this one in the file with alien abductions and Julius Caesar conspiracies.Continue reading
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