Jeremy Lott on the Media’s Pope-O-Rama
Date: March 18th, 2013

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How well did the popular media do in covering the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, the Conclave of Cardinals, and the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis I?  There is nobody better to ask this question of than Jeremy Lott, editor of RealClearReligion (, a website devoted to aggregating news from around the world on all things religious.  Jeremy, a frequent guest on our program and a Catholilc himself, has a broad perspective on the media’s coverage of events within the Vatican over the past month — the good, the bad, and the ugly.  We begin with a general assessment of how the media reacted overall.  Jeremy mentions that there were some definite bright spots including John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter, but that much of the popular press tended to view the resignation of Benedict XVI and the election of Francis through the lens of American politics.  Given that many within the media, especially those general reporters who were assigned this beat in February, come from a class of people who are not very religious, it is not surprising that much of the reporting was awkward and misinformed.  We then divide up the past month into three distinct phases: 1) the resignation of Benedict XVI; 2) the Conclave of Cardinals; and 3) the election of Pope Francis I.  While much of the media was surprised by the resignation of Benedict, Jeremy shares some fascinating observations about various clues that should have led us to expect such an event, including reference to a bear with a backpack on Benedict’s papal seal and a certain action he took at the tomb of Celestine V.  Following this discussion, we explore the media speculation surrounding what would occur during the Conclave and look at some of the dominant questions being asked, including whether the Cardinals would “get with the times” and pick an African pontiff and bring the Church into the 21st century.  Throughout the interview, Tony and Jeremy share some of the questions that they were asked by reporters recently and how frustrating those experiences were.  We also talk about the intense focus on the Vatican smokestack and the appearance of a seagull signalling something — anything! — all of which demonstrated how little the media had to say about the closed-door proceedings at the Conclave.  (Tony shares his frustration that the announcement of Francis’s election pre-empted his meme about the smokestack and Jonathan Livingston Seagull from going viral.)   Jeremy contrasts some of the questions he received from the media with more procedural questions he received from his Protestant neighbors in northern Washington.  Finally, it is on to the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new pontiff and how that surprised both the Vegas oddsmakers and pundits.  Jeremy explains why we shouldn’t have been surprised and how the media reacted to the personality and character of Bergolio.  In the last ten minutes of our interview, Tony asks Jeremy what other news stories have flown under the radar amidst all the frenzy about the new pope.  He covers three big news stories that should have received more attention including the dramatic success of The Bible television series on The History Channel, the Baptist missionary doctor who apparently cured a child born with HIV, and (of all things) Latter Day lactivists, a brewing controversy in Salt Lake City.  Recorded: March 16, 2013.


 RealClearReligion — a great place for all your religious news!  (You can also link to RealClearScience and RealClearBooks here too.)

Is the Pope Good for America?” featuring Jeremy Lott in The Guardian.

The Man Who Didn’t Want to Be Pope,” by Jeremy Lott at RealClearReligion.

What If You Get a Bad Pope?” by Jeremy Lott at RealClearReligion.

Please God Not an American Pope,” by Jeremy Lott at RealClearPolitics.

Rise of the Latter Day Lactivists,” by Peggy Fletcher Stack in The Salt Lake Tribune.

Doctor Behind HIV Cure a Former Missionary,” by Tiffany Owens in World Magazine.

William F. Buckley (Christian Encouter Series), by Jeremy A. Lott.

In Defense of Hypocrisy: Picking Sides in the War on Virtue, by Jeremy A. Lott.

The Warm Bucket Brigade: The Story of the American Vice Presidency, by Jeremy A. Lott.

I’ll Never Forget It: Memoirs of a Political Accident from East Baltimore, by Marvin Mandel, Jeremy Lott, and Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.


Jeremy Lott on Real Clear Religion.

Jon M. Sweeney on the Pope Who Quit.

Jeremy Lott on Episcopalians, Ex-Athiests, Health Care, and German Circumcision.

Jeremy Lott on America’s Shifting Religious Election Coalition.

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