Monday, April 18, 2005

Conclave Watch

I'm really enjoying the cable channels' picture-in-picture displays onscreen of the Vatican chimney. (Fox News Channel has had it almost nonstop this morning, CNN a little less frequently -- though steadily at this writing -- and MSNBC noticeably less than CNN.) The only other time a chimney gets this much attention is when Santa is heading down one.
It was on EWTN this morning that one announcer admitted we're going to be seeing a lot of that chimney. Now that the selection process has begun, we're not going to see or know much else from the secret deliberations until the new pope is picked.
That's making more work for the news announcers, although any trained broadcaster has by this time learned the art of filling the air even when there's no fresh news. You talk, you show pictures, you dredge up archival footage, you interview experts of varying ability, you do a lot of guessing.
We see that on a lot of stories, but the model may be old-time coverage of rocket launches with manned spaceflights. Then, you sat for hours with nothing much to see but a rocket on the launching pad. Sort of like looking at a chimney.
Of course, today the newscasters don't let themselves be limited to presenting one story at a time. By using the smaller shot of the chimney on the larger screen, they can keep viewers aware of the one real source of news from the Vatican while devoting the rest of the screen to other stories.

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