Northwest Ohio has a large Catholic population and at least two of the Toledo TV stations fall over each other promoting the Church and their events. Most of the time it seems like they act like PR agencies rather than news reporters. Both stations plan extensive coverage of Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia. Those plans made me wonder who was paying for it.
Next week the Pope is visiting the US with time spent at the World Meeting of Families Congress in Philadelphia and WTOL and WTVG are planning on having full news crews traveling with Toledo area families going to the event. WTOL also had a 2 part sit-down interview with the Archbishop of Toledo and it was so fluffy my teeth hurt from the sugar.
So I decided to e-mail the stations and find out who was paying for the coverage. Obviously the Archdiocese had to agree to the stations tagging along so I wondered if it paid any money to the stations.
Here is the template of the message I sent to WTOL and WTVG:
I am a viewer in Findlay and was wondering who is paying the costs for [name of station here] to cover the Pope’s visit next week?
I was curious if the station is getting any sponsorship money from the Archdiocese of Toledo for the trip.
I got a reply from the News Director of WTVG right away:
Thank you for writing and for your question. 13abc decided months ago to send a crew with the 350 people from Northwest Ohio traveling to Philadelphia to see Pope Francis. Subsequent to that journalistic decision, our sales department located two businesses as sponsors. One is St. Claire Commons, a Franciscan Living Community and the other is Coyle Funeral Home. In case you were wondering, the sponsors have had no input into our coverage or content decisions. Also, the Diocese of Toledo has not provided any money to 13abc for the trip and we are paying all expenses for our two staff members for their travel.
St. Clare Commons is an assisted living community run by a member of Catholic Health Initiatives so sponsoring a trip to see the Pope isn’t exactly outside of their mission to support the Church. I think it is kind of an indirect way for the Archdiocese of Toledo to get fluffy coverage.
Coyle Funeral Home is still run by the Coyle family. Coyle is an Irish name and most likely the family is Catholic. Again a fan of the Church is paying for coverage of the church.
WTOL still hasn’t responded but if they do I will update this post. It has been my observation that WTOL is more a cheerleader for the Church than WTVG. Sunday Mass is on WTOL and they have had many stories about the Archdiocese of Toledo in the prime time of their newscasts.
My college time was spent on a journalism degree and one aspect of journalism is reporting should be based on time, manner, and place. Popepalooza in Philadelphia is a bit outside the normal area these stations cover. Had the Pope come to Cleveland then it would be a better news decision to cover it.
The crews attending the World Meeting of Families Congress will be having little to no objective coverage of the conference because they are being granted access from the subject of the news. No matter what the news director at WTVG claims, the Church will have some influence on the stories reported.
The Toledo stations have made the decision to give something no other religious or non-religious people get. I doubt they would have such extensive coverage of a Muslim conference or an atheist conference.
A privileged religion has its benefits.
Based on recent promos, WTOL was the official media partner for the Archdiocese of Toledo during the trip. Basically the Archdiocese and the station had a partnership/advertising relationship like when radio DJs would broadcast live from a car dealership. The station will be promoting the trip and the church and you can be sure not see anything negative during the event. I know I didn’t see any objective reporting.