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Covering a Once-Every-600-Years Story

Unprecedented in modern times, the Papal departure was covered by a thoroughly modern media. From the complex (multiple live cameras and locations) to the simple (Twitter.)

As Pope Benedict XVI began his final day as the leader of the Roman Catholic church, the broadcast networks produced special reports early this morning, while the cablers went into rolling coverage for much of the morning. CBS broke in for their special report at 10:44amET as Benedict departed for the final time. ABC and NBC followed at 10:53 and FOX at 11:02am. Vatican TV provided a multi-camera, multi-vehicle production which was carried by all the networks. From the Papal residence, through the Hills of Rome to an awaiting helicopter, and the short flight to Castel Gandolfo, cameras followed, anchors commented, priests analyzed. As Norah O’Donnell explained on CBS, “19 high definition cameras carefully choreographed so that we can see this historic moment.”

On cable news, we saw the pairing of Chris Cuomo and Erin Burnett, perhaps a sign of things to come for CNN mornings. (As the Papal departure was unfolding, Jeff Zucker was introducing the new EP of the morning show, veteran producer Jim Murphy). On MSNBC, the news fell in Chris Jansing‘s hour. A veteran of Papal coverage, Jansing will return to Rome for the Conclave. Fox News had Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum anchoring in New York while Fr. Jonathan Morris, who has been with Fox since shortly after Benedict became Pope, gave analysis from Rome.

By 11:50am, the broadcast networks had returned to regular programming and by Noon the cable networks moved on to the other news of the day.

And as he was being driven away from the Vatican for the final time, a Tweet was sent from @pontifex, the Pope’s Twitter account:

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