THE AFTERGLOW: HANDICAPPING OUR COVERAGE
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
We are still receiving hundreds of e-mails to our papal visit box every hour and I am delighted. The vast majority of correspondents were ecstatic about our coverage of the Papal visit. [And with good reason, I think.] Below is just one of the thousands of kudos that I think captures the spirit of what we were trying to accomplish with our broadcasts:
"Raymond, I want to thank you, and EWTN for bringing our Catholic family this wonderful coverage of the Holy Father’s Journey to the USA. Listening to you, Father Neuhaus, Carl Anderson, and Joan Lewis was lovely. I felt like I was enjoying a great big family reunion. The family was gathered. The uncles were telling stories and the children were listening with rapt attention, soaking up every detail of each story. There were prayerful moments, musical moments, poignant moments, anxious moments, moments of good natured joking and serene moments of ineffable joy and thanksgiving as together our family celebrated the most marvelous event any family could hope to celebrate with their beloved Papa. "
Still there were those irked by some of our commentary, particularly during the Masses. Since I can’t possibly respond to every cranky e-mail (some of them downright nasty) I will do so here. [If those e-mails were anything like the nastiness sent to me by the habitually sour, then I am in great sympathy.]
Firstly, there are obligations that BROADCASTS make upon us. One of those is narrating for our international and domestic radio audience for whom silence is not golden, but death. Many radio listeners wrote to us wondering "what was happening" when long areas of silence prevailed. So that explains some of the "scene setting" that we at times engaged in. [That is a tough tight rope to walk and this deserves our comprehension. At the same time, would it not be wonderful to have access to an audio feed that was just that? Just the feed? But I digress…]
Regarding commentary: our job is to put these papal events in context. That means evaluating them and explaining them in the context of Magisterial teaching and the writings of the Holy Father. Other broadcasters this past week imposed their pop culture perspectives on the visit (focusing on the need to ordain women, the Pope’s fashion, and polls which found that no one believes what they should believe to be considered believers). I think for the general public (even the average Catholic) there is great lack of understanding. Few have had time to read the Pope’s writings with any attention and even fewer have had occasions to watch him with any frequency. What we tried to do, delicately I think, was to reveal the thinking behind this or that speech (or event), connecting it to what has gone before. [I think they did very well with this! The content was good.]
Commentary was inserted into pockets of events consciously avoiding stepping on the key parts of the Mass etc. Still some felt we should be entirely silent during the Masses–a papal C-Span. So we made a decision to say NOTHING during the St. Patrick’s Mass, and in flooded a torrent of viewer protest. "What happened to your commentary?" "Please don’t stop commenting. It’s like being left alone," our e-mail screamed. I have learned my lesson, we will continue to split the difference with due deference to the sacrality of the events we are covering, but we shant be silent. [They took the risk to be silent and they got feedback. I suppose this will help them make decisions for coverage in the future. Frankly, I think their coverage has improved over the years.]
It is important for all of us to realize that what EWTN offers is a BROADCAST of the papal Mass, not the Mass itself. [Yes. This is true.] This does not fulfill a Catholic’s Sunday obligation and should not be viewed as a liturgy substitute. [Though I am sure shut-ins see it slightly differently, but…] It is a televised representation of the Mass with inherent challenges and professional requirements. For those who were annoyed, I am sorry. But for millions of viewers, the commentary helped them make sense of what they were watching and sort through the reactions they were experiencing. And that’s what we were trying to do.
Thank you all for being with us for this truly amazing visit, and I hope you’ll watch the World Over this Friday for more analysis of the trip… Gratefully, Raymond
I am very glad that Raymond Arroyo posted this. He is a stand-up guy for that. I do get the sense, nevertheless, that the negative e-mail got under his skin a little…. but it will sometimes do that.
I am among those who like to hear the live sounds without people talking over them. This is why I hope someday that there can be a raw feed. I also fully understand the need to comment… that is why they are there and the comments are very helpful, nay rather, critical for 95% of the viewers. Still, perhaps there may be ways in the future to improve the timing of the commentary.