National Catholic Register

Inperson

EWTN Girds For Coverage

BY Tim Drake

April 6-12, 2008 Issue | Posted 4/1/08 at 12:04 PM

 

Raymond Arroyo has hosted EWTN’s “The World Over” from Birmingham, Ala., for 12 years.

Beginning the week before Pope Benedict XVI’s April 15 visit to the United States, Arroyo will begin hosting the program from the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C., in front of a live audience. During the Pope’s visit, EWTN’s coverage will also be available at Pope2008.com, the Register’s papal visit blog.

He’s kicking off the program’s move with an April 11 interview with President George Bush about the papal visit. He recently spoke with Register senior writer Tim Drake about EWTN’s planned papal coverage while sitting in traffic in Los Angeles.


Is it true EWTN will be the only television station providing wall-to-wall coverage for the Pope’s trip to the United States?

Yes, we’ll be covering the Pope’s visit from the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C., and we’re anchoring part of it from St. Joseph’s Seminary and part from a studio in New York.


And you’re moving to Washington permanently?

Yes, the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center will be the home base for “The World Over Live” beginning the second week of April. It will be the first time that we’ll have a live audience with the show.

Visitors to Washington, D.C., will be able to send ticket requests to EWTN.com to be in the audience. We’ll be able to accommodate about 70 people.

Being in D.C. will afford access to great newsmakers that we can’t get to Birmingham. We’ve had to rely a lot on satellite interviews. This way, we’ll be able to bring in people from various aspects of the culture — theologians, playwrights and policy makers, and have them all weigh in on the issues, as well as having the audience participate.

It’s going to add to the texture and energy of the show.

The John Paul II Cultural Center has become a nexus of dialogue for the past year or two. Cardinal Angelo Scola [of Venice] came there to dialogue with Muslims, and head of the Iraqi parliament also came there to give a speech. It has become kind of the Pope’s meeting place with other religious and world leaders.

We’ve been working on this for a year and a half. When the announcement came of the papal visit to the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, I saw it as Providence.


How do you think the secular media will cover the papal visit?

As I talk to my colleagues in D.C., they’re going to be spending an enormous amount of time covering the Democratic primary races. The Pennsylvania primary takes place on April 22 — a primary that’s likely to decide the Democratic presidential nominee. That’s going to consume them.

The Pope’s visit also comes at a time when networks are hemorrhaging. They don’t want to dispense huge numbers of reporters and commentators to venues.

My guess is that they will take some of the feeds from the visit — the White House, the visit to Ground Zero, and the U.N. event — and that will just about do it. They won’t pull away for an hour to cover his talk at The Catholic University of America.


Are there any events you think that the secular media will cover?

Of all the events, the Pope’s speech to the U.N. will be the most widely covered. That was the first event.

He was invited to give a speech at the U.N., and the rest of the events were built around it. The rest of the events will be ignored as sleeper news events.


Why do you think that is?

They really don’t know Benedict. For them, the last time he came out of the hole was Regensburg. There’s a great deal of ignorance. They don’t know his work and they don’t see him as compelling as Pope John Paul II was. He doesn’t have the same resonance.

I’ve received a lot of calls over the last three months from the press corps in Washington and New York asking me to translate this for them. They’re curious about the event at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center and Catholic University of America, and want to know why they should care. It’s all very foreign to them.

The processes of the Vatican are difficult for a journalist who is used to moving in a certain way. The protocols are difficult for them to get used to. Consequently, it’s easier for them not to cover.


That seems like a golden opportunity for EWTN.

It is. Most of the events will be ignored by the media. The Mass, for example, my colleagues say isn’t news. It’s a Mass. They say that they’ll have him at other places. It’s not of national importance in their minds.

For Catholics, it’s a golden opportunity. When Pope John Paul II visited Cuba, all the major newscasters were there — [Tom] Brokaw, [Dan] Rather. They covered the arrival of the Pope, but then the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke and they were all pulled out, leaving only EWTN to provide gavel-to-gavel coverage.

For us it’s fantastic. There will be nowhere else where people are exposed to these events. This is our Olympics. It’s the high point of our year, and perhaps it’s better that way.

We have the people to provide the proper context — Father Richard John Neuhaus, Helen Alvare, Carl Anderson, Laura Ingraham, Mary Ann Glendon. It’s a nice mixture of people from across the Catholic culture dropping in to talk about how the visit is affecting them. Both Father Neuhaus and Carl Anderson have the advantage of knowing the man. They’ve known him for decades.

For us, this is a homecoming. I know no other network will cover it this way. Given the logistical and financial realities, I don’t think they’re capable of covering it the way we will.

When our peers are focused on the things that will dissolve into yesterday’s headlines, we’ll be covering the eternal story.

Knowing Pope Benedict and listening to him, he’ll have a message that is direct, profound, and commands our attention. I hope people will be listening.


Tim Drake is based in

St. Joseph, Minnesota.