On June 17, 1977, New West Magazine reported a break-in at its editorial offices in San Francisco. The lock to the window was broken, said a secretary for New West, and its files on Peoples Temple had been disturbed.
With the magazine’s much-anticipated story about Peoples Temple still in the works, with letters and phone calls from the Temple’s prominent supporters rivaling the sometimes-anonymous calls from critics and disaffected former members pouring in to the magazine every day, and with the Temple’s campaign to stop the story extending as far as lobbying the magazine’s advertisers, the coverage of the break-in focused on Peoples Temple as the responsible party.
From its first examination of New West offices on June 17, however, the police concluded there had been no break-in at all – much less one that could be attributed to the Temple – and subsequent investigations supported that finding. It took four days for the police to make its initial report, though. It was 12 days before it made its final determination that the window lock had been broken by a magazine editor who had accidentally locked himself out and who let himself back in through the window.
In the meantime, the story of the alleged break-in gave the magazine free publicity about its upcoming expose. Even after the events of November 1978, several histories of Peoples Temple reported only the New West break-in, omitting the findings of the police investigation.