Too much pope?

Was there too much coverage on NPR about the pope?

Apparently a lot of people think so. There were enough complaints to the Washington-based network this week that NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos responded to them this afternoon.


Some listeners also asked if NPR would cover the transition of other religious leaders as closely as it has covered the pope. This is a logical question. We all know that neither NPR nor the mainstream media in general has done so in the past. I don’t think that they will or should do so in the future.

It’s not that other religions are not of equal or greater importance. Among Christians, there are more Protestants than Catholics in the United States. In a 2010 Pew study, Catholics made up half of the 2.2 billion Christians worldwide. There were more Muslims — 1.6 billion — and almost as many Hindus — 1 billion. (Among world religions, Buddhists came in fourth, with 488 million followers.)

None of these religions, however, are united in a single institution with a single head, as is the Catholic denomination. No other denomination or sect in any of the religions, meanwhile, is as large as the Catholic one. This institutional factor alone gives the pope far more global influence than any other single religious leader.

Here’s the full column.

  • Keith

    I’m almost as tired of PopeStorm2013 as I am of hearing Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. And that’s saying something.

  • http://wcco.com/goodquestion Jason DeRusha

    It’s a Good Question, one we took up at WCCO the other night. But it’s also a silly question. No other religion places the importance on their leader that the Catholic Church does. No other religious leader is also a head of state. No other religious leader would get the US Vice-President to travel for a meeting. It’s just different.

    Are we so impatient as a society today that a couple days of coverage on something is “too much?” People immerse themselves in social media channels which they subscribe to, and then complain that they’re getting too much information. Unplug, if you’re not interested! No one’s making you watch or listen or read!

  • Mark Gisleson

    This atheist doesn’t think it was too much coverage. Few human beings have the ability to do as much harm as a Pope. I didn’t listen to the coverage (why would I trust a network that can’t be objective about Israel with telling me about the new Pope?) but I doubt it was excessive. I also doubt it was objective but objectivity isn’t something I expect from establishmentarian centrists who have been terrorized into self-censoring themselves by conservative media “critics.”

  • Jamie H

    I agree with Mr. Gisleson except for where he says he doubts the coverage was excessive. It was indeed excessive. Actually, it was more like OBsessive — the way commercial tv news covers the latest news-making celebrity. And it was more than just a couple days, Mr. DeRusha. It was a couple weeks, and it was the top story on most news breaks and one of the top features during the rest of the programming. And if one wants to hear the rest of the news, one can’t turn off the radio.

  • Joanna

    I wish there had been more attention to the very serious issues regarding the new pope’s role –passive or active–in Argentina during the military dictatorship (aka “The Dirty War”),the struggle within Catholicism over politics since Vatican II, and whether or not this new pope will acknowledge and atone for Papal/ecclesiastical complicity in Latin America for its support of state torture and murder. Naming yourself after St Francis of Assisi is not the same as preaching the “preferential option for the poor.” I expect more of NPR than coverage of the horse race.

  • John

    Too much news about the pope? Nah, I just LOVE getting 45 minutes of pope poop on every 30 minute news segment.

  • Chuck

    I’m not Catholic, but I have quite enjoyed the coverage of the election of the pope. It’s fascinating. But like all news, something else will come along soon to displace him, and in two weeks, he’ll be out of the headlines and hard to find in any mainstream coverage.

  • Sarah Marie

    I’m inclined to agree that the world media as a whole spent WAY too much time covering the election of Pope Francis. In this modern world of science and logic, religion is becoming less and less relevent. Besides, the Catholic Church is a nearly 2,000 year old organization with no concept of modern human rights; if anything the media’s overdose of Pope news reflects that which we already know: that media is ultimately distracting us from real news like human rights violations that plague the world’s citizens every day. Perhaps instead of glorifying the Catholic faith, the media could spend more time reporting on the massive sex abuse the Church has inflicted on children for the last few decades. Where is justice and why doesn’t it apply to church leaders?!

  • Kathryn

    Was it too much coverage? YES. I know it should be covered because the pope is a head of state. But I do think it was overkill. It makes great visuals – all those red robes – and the pomp and pagentry. So it is an easy story to cover.

    Also, I couldn’t help thinking that all those news people were very happy to spend a few days in Rome, as I would be!

    I knew they were more about the coverage than the Conclave when they announced (on TV) that a rain was ‘playing havoc’ with the conclave. Not really, the Conclave was indoors, they were fine. The rain was playing havoc with the media folks stuck outside.