It’s strictly taboo: Lancaster paper kills article on a witch

How controversial could a witch be in 2014? Plenty, if you’re in Lancaster, Pa. — where a newspaper ran a feature on a local practitioner, then killed it.

At issue is a long, friendly, garden-variety profile on Kim Cabot Consoli of Bainbridge, in the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal. The May 17 feature, by a former GetReligionista — the Rev. Elizabeth Eisenstadt-Evans — that described Consoli’s “craft,” how she practices it, her relationship with a Mayan teacher and Salem witch Laurie Cabot, etc. There was also a sidebar primer on things like the definition of “Wiccan” and whether witches worship Satan.

Then, as media watcher Jim Romenesko reports, the newspaper learned that Consoli had another record — an arrest on charges of prostitution.

Then the story was quickly taken offline.

Here is the really interesting journalism hook in this story about a news story. The newspaper’s editors then ran a lengthy mea culpa.

“Had this information been mined earlier, the story would never have been written, let alone published,” executive editor Barbara Hough Roda wrote. She added some idealistic words about the need for “context, balance and thoughtful story play.”

A closer look, though, suggests another motive for pulling the story: objections from readers about a feature article on a local witch. The prostitution arrest took up three of the 10 paragraphs. Consoli’s witchcraft was the subject of four other paragraphs, including the first three:

Last weekend’s Faith & Values pages carried an article about a Bainbridge woman who practices witchcraft.

The topic was not typical fare for the section, nor for our newspaper. Like many stories, its unusual nature made it newsworthy. Yet while the presence of one witch living among us is noteworthy, even unique, it is also true that Lancaster County is certainly not seeing a proliferation of Wiccans.

Our presentation and the amount of space we gave the story wrongly suggested the latter. Our report focused largely on one woman, and did not put witchcraft into a larger context of the faith and values of our community. Our overall treatment was certainly not proportional to the scope of the subject matter.

And further down in the article:

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