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Cable News Coverage of Historic Canonization

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The U.S. cable news networks carried live coverage of the canonization ceremony early this morning for Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. NBC’s Lester Holt anchored an NBC News special report which was simulcast on MSNBC, starting at 4amET. (This means on the West Coast, the canonization ceremony had a lead-in of “Saturday Night Live” on NBC stations.) ABC News and CBS News did not offer live TV coverage of the ceremony but correspondents Terry Moran for ABC and Allen Pizzey for CBS filed reports from Vatican City. For NBC and MSNBC Anne Thompson and Chris Jansing reported from Rome.

On Fox News, Anita Vogel began coverage from Los Angeles just before 4amET with reporting from Amy Kellogg in Rome. Also at 4am, CNN/U.S. began a simulcast of CNNI’s live coverage anchored by Errol Barnett and Amara Walker with reporting from Delia Gallagher at the Vatican.

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NBC News Airs Special Report on Pres. Obama, Pope Francis Meeting

PopeObamaNBC News was the only broadcast news network to provide a network special report of President Obama’s first meeting with Pope Francis this morning.

Matt Lauer broke in at 5:13amET as the president arrived at the Vatican, with correspondent Anne Thompson alongside him in New York and White House Correspondent Peter Alexander reporting from Vatican City.

Many local stations in the eastern and central time zones carried the live pictures as the president and pope shook hands and sat down for what would be a :50 minute meeting.

“Good Morning America” and “CBS This Morning each led with the historic meeting. Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl reported from Vatican City for ABC, while Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett reported live from Vatican City for CBS.

Robin Roberts and Josh Elliott Meet the Pope

GMAPopeFrom Times Square to Vatican Square, this morning’s “Good Morning America” was weeks in the making, but only came together in the last day. Robin Roberts and Josh Elliott traveled to Rome after Monday’s “GMA” to be in place for Pope Francis’s weekly audience in Vatican City this morning.

As the Pope greeted pilgrims in the Square, Roberts and Elliott waited their turn. It only lasted a few seconds, but will be meaningful for the GMA anchors for the rest of their lives. Roberts told Pope Francis she prays for him every day. Elliott broke out the Italian, then told the first-ever Jesuit Pope, “I’m a Jesuit boy. I went to Jesuit High School.” Elliott graduated from Loyola High School in Los Angeles.

Much of the visit was arranged by Greg Burke, the former Fox News correspondent who is now part of the Vatican communications staff.


Networks Up Early For Pope Francis’ Inaugural Mass

Pope Francis marked the start of his papacy with an inaugural mass at the Vatican this morning. The cable and broadcast networks that had special reports anchored coverage of the event, which began around 4:30amET, from New York.

CNN covered the mass during an expanded version of “Early Start,” with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin anchoring beginning at 3:30amET. Fox News’ special report, anchored by Shepard Smith, began at 4:20amET. Chris Jansing anchored on MSNBC beginning at 4:30amET.

On the broadcast networks, ABC’s Terry Moran anchored beginning at 3:51amET. Cecilia Vega and Ron Claiborne reported from Vatican City. On NBC, Savannah Guthrie anchored beginning at 4:31amET, with Keir Simmons in Vatican City. CBS News did not air a special report, but correspondent Vinita Nair did live shots from St. Peter’s Square for the network’s affiliates during the inaugural mass. CBS also streamed the ceremony live on its website.


Fox News Wins Papal Announcement Coverage

Ratings are in for the cable news networks’ wall-to-wall coverage of yesterday’s announcement of a new Pope. Fox News averaged the most viewers in both ratings measurements during the heart of coverage between 2-4pmET, drawing 2,232,000 Total Viewers 443,000 in the demo. CNN was second with 1,497,000 Total Viewers and 420,000 A25-54 viewers. HLN was third with 913,000 and 315,000, and MSNBC was fourth with 597,000 and 142,000, respectively.

In the 2pmET hour, which was when the white smoke first appeared, Fox News was on top among Total Viewers and in the adults 25-54 demo. During the 3pmET hour, when Pope Francis I was introduced and spoke for the first time, Fox News won in Total Viewers while CNN led the way in the key demo.

And in a sign that intense interest in the Jodi Arias trial continues, HLN — which covered the Papal announcement and speech but stayed mostly on the trial — came in third for both hours, beating MSNBC. In primetime, HLN came in third in Total Viewers and second in A25-54 viewers. The premiere of “After Dark,” the network’s new show about the Arias trial, won the 10 p.m. timeslot among younger viewers.

2:00-3:00 p.m.:

FNC: 1,901,000 Total Viewers (391,000 A25-54)

CNN: 1,188,000 Total Viewers (325,000 A25-54)

HLN: 896,000 Total Viewers (297,000 A25-54)

MSNBC: 461,000 Total Viewers (108,000 A25-54)

3:00-4:00 p.m.:

FNC: 2,545,000 Total Viewers (495,000 A25-54)

CNN: 1,805,000 Total Viewers (513,000 A25-54)

HLN: 930,000 Total Viewers (334,000 A25-54)

MSNBC : 730,000 Total Viewers (175,000 A25-54)

White Smoke: There Is a New Pope

The College of Cardinals has selected a new Pope on its first full day of voting. White smoke began to rise from the chimney above the Sistine Chapel at 2:06 PM ET (7:06 PM in Vatican City), signaling that a new Pope had been chosen. The Bells of St Peter rang throughout the city minutes later.

The results had been expected, with all three cable news channels featuring chyrons to the effect of “smoke expected momentarily” in the minutes leading up to the event. There was, as one might also expect, some confusion as to what color the smoke was.

“Kinda dark, kinda light, it is the lightest smoke we have seen,” CNN’s Chris Cuomo said. “We are going to be transparent about it, we don’t know.”

“It appears grey, it is whitish,” FNC’s Megyn Kelly said.

“It looks white,” MSNBC’s Tamron Hall said.

The color was made clear relatively quickly against the black sky, even if it started out greyish. The broadcasters broke in moments after the smoke appeared for special reports. Every anchor appeared to be in position to cover the event when it happened.

The three business networks also covered the Papal selection: CNBC had to interrupt a live interview with Martha Stewart to break the news, while FBN erroneously reported that the smoke was black, airing the chyron “New Pope not selected”, before quickly correcting themselves. Bloomberg did not have a chimneycam, but broke into programming when it confirmed that the smoke was white.

Update: Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, has been selected as Pope. He will take the name Pope Francis I. Broadcast and cable networks went non-stop until the announcement was made at 3:12 Pm ET. A search of TVEyes shows that Bergoglio was not on the radar of U.S. networks. He was mentioned only twice in the last few days, once on CNN and once on MSNBC. The Spanish language networks, however, did float Bergoglio as a possible frontrunner.

Still No Pope After Another Conclave Vote

Another vote from the Vatican, but no Pope yet. The cable news networks reported on the latest round of black smoke within seconds of each other at 6:39amET. Fox News’ Shepard Smith and CNN’s Chris Cuomo led coverage from Rome on their respective networks. MNSBC covered the latest vote during “Morning Joe.”

The smoke initially appeared to be a light grey color, leading to some slight hedging on CNN at the very top of their report. “When you look at the smoke, it’s not as dark as it was last night. And that’s part of the mystery here,” Cuomo said. He introduced John Allen and Father Edward Beck and joked they were there “to share the blame if I’m wrong about the color of the smoke.”

The broadcast networks all began their special reports at 6:39amET. CBS’ Norah O’Donnell and ABC’s Josh Elliott anchored from Rome, while Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer anchored for NBC from New York, with Lester Holt contributing from Rome.

Black Smoke Signals No Pope On Day One Of Conclave

Black smoke billowed out of the chimney above the Sistine Chapel at 2:41 PM ET (7:41 PM in Vatican City). It was not unexpected, as a Pope is rarely selected on the first vote. Every cable news channel was on the smoke seconds after it appeared, while ABC, CBS and NBC broke in with special reports shortly thereafter. Every network seemed to be on top of their game, with anchors and correspondents in place and ready to report.

Despite it being a dark and dreary night in Rome, the dark smoke was clear against the brown wall of the building . Whether that continues tomorrow remains to be seen.

Before the Smoke Clears, The Call of a New Pope

And now the wait begins. At 12:34pmET, the doors of the Sistine Chapel closed as 115 Cardinals began the process of choosing a new pope. Now, TV news anchors, analysts, producers and bookers are at the ready for the first signs of smoke.

The news networks produced special reports as Cardinals made their way to the Sistine Chapel for the conclave with live video provided by Vatican TV. NBC’s Lester Holt and ABC’s Diane Sawyer, both in Rome, anchored special reports for their networks beginning at 11:30am. CBS’s Scott Pelley anchored a special beginning at NoonET. Now all the anchors, including Anderson Cooper and Chris Cuomo from CNN, Chris Jansing from MSNBC, and Shepard Smith from Fox News will be seated and dialed into their respective control rooms awaiting the smoke signal: black smoke for no pope, white smoke for a new pope.

Having been on the other side of this process as Jansing’s producer at the conclave that elected Benedict XVI in 2005, I can tell you the next 24-48 hours will be one of great anticipation, and, in some cases, frustration; with no warning of when the smoke will fly and when it does, finding that what appears white smoke is really black. It can be one of the most exciting and memorable moments of live TV, for its history and rarity. It’s like election night, without exit polls or precinct-by-precinct data to tell you which way the wind is blowing. And it can also be fraught with too early or wholly incorrect reporting, made more challenging this time by the wide open field of the Papabili. When the smoke clears, we will have a new pope. Before then, don’t be surprised by some misinformation from an always plugged-in global media relying on a smoke signal for news.

Attention TV Producers: Conclave to Start Tuesday, March 12

TV news staffers, start your (jet) engines. The Vatican has announced that the Conclave to elect the next Pope will begin on Tuesday, March 12 after morning mass. 115 Cardinals will participate in the vote, which will almost certainly become a major television event.

This will be the second conclave since the birth of cable news. The last conclave, held in 2005 following the death of Pope John Paul II, lasted for one day, with Pope Benedict XVI elected after four ballots. Coverage went almost around the clock.

In February, Pope Benedict announced that he would be stepping down as Pope, the first Pope to do so since 1415. His departure, quite rightly, became a huge TV news story.