In the summer of 1978, Gordon Lindsay, a British journalist working with the National Enquirer, picked up the story of Peoples Temple, focusing on some of the reports of neglect and abuse that were emerging from Jonestown. After studying documents such as Deborah Blakey’s affidavit, meeting with members of the Concerned Relatives organization, and doing his own investigating – including chartering a plane that flew over the Jonestown settlement in June or July of that year – Lindsay approached members of the Temple in the States, as well as relatives who had visited Guyana, to conduct interviews for a story.
The Temple bristled at the questions. From Jonestown’s perspective, the reporter seemed to have already made up his mind of what he would find, and wanted only to confirm his most sensational charges. For that reason, the Temple began keeping track of contacts with the reporter, including transcripts of taped conversations, affidavits, and letters. Temple attorneys both in and out of Jonestown also drafted letters threatening legal action against the Enquirer should the weekly tabloid publish a story.
Gordon Lindsay eventually wrote his story – depending upon the varying accounts of the incident, he finished the initial 62-page installment in June, which would have been before he sought interviews with people inside the Temple; or he finished it in early fall – but whatever the timeline, the Enquirer did not publish it.
The reason for the tabloid’s decision is equally unclear. One version of the story holds that the Enquirer yielded to the threats of lawsuits, and even though it had already paid Lindsay and his photographer Cyril Maitland $10,000 for the piece, decided to cut its losses. A second version has it that the Temple itself, in the person of Temple attorney Mark Lane, paid between $5000 and $10,000 either to Lindsay or to the tabloid to kill the article, although a variant on that version – supported by a Temple report on the transaction – suggests that the money was spent for a pirated advance copy of the article which Lane planned to use to preclude its publication. Yet another version holds that both accounts are true: that the Enquirer paid Lindsay to research and write the story, and that the Temple paid the Enquirer not to publish it.
Whatever happened that fall to thwart publication of his piece, Lindsay did not let go of the story. He met with reporters and producers from NBC who were working on a series of stories about cults, and – in November 1978 – arranged to travel with Leo Ryan’s congressional party to Guyana. He flew with the reduced entourage accompanying Ryan to Port Kaituma. Upon Ryan’s arrival at the airstrip, a number of Jonestown leaders and two outside attorneys – Mark Lane and Charles Garry – negotiated the entry of the party into the jungle settlement. The only person denied entry was Gordon Lindsay.
Following the deaths in Jonestown, according to press reports, Lindsay said he was told by Mark Lane that there was a hit list of the Temple’s enemies, and that the reporter was “Number Two” on it. While numerous tapes and “confessions” from Jonestown discuss various Temple enemies and fantasies about their fates – and although rumors of the existence of a list of targeted enemies still persist – no such list was ever recovered, and no one died at the hands of former Temple members.