Here Comes a New Nightly Newscast... from Conservative Catholic Cable Channel EWTN

Monday’s Washington Post gave major top-of-the-Style section play to the Catholic cable channel EWTN and its plan to produce a commercial-free nightly newscast starting in July modeled on the Big Three network shows – except it will have a “Catholic lens,” rather than the usual secular-media lens.

The anchor of “EWTN News Nightly” is Colleen Carroll Campbell, a former Bush speechwriter who’s hosted the EWTN show "Faith and Culture." EWTN currently has a weekly news show called “The World Over Live” with Raymond Arroyo, who also appears as a guest host on the Laura Ingraham radio show.

Post reporter Adam Bernstein loosely compared EWTN -- for Eternal Word Television Network -- with other news operations:

The executive producer overseeing the show is David Kerr (pronounced “care”), a Scottish-born veteran of senior production and reporting jobs with the BBC. He also ran as a member of the Scottish National Party for a seat in the British Parliament. Several other senior editorial team members have worked at the BBC and ABC, noted Kerr, a 39-year-old Catholic and a past member of the conservative movement Opus Dei.

He wrote in an e-mail that he found the BBC’s “intellectual center of gravity was both radically secular and socially liberal, meaning that its news coverage, often unwittingly, had an institutional bias on issues such as the dignity of human life, marriage and the family or even the worth of Christianity’s contribution to the common good. Coming from a Catholic perspective, ‘EWTN News Nightly’ would hope to inject a greater degree of fairness into the coverage of such key social and ethical issues.”

...The core audience for the news show, [EWTN CEO Michael] Warsaw said, will be Catholics who think the secular media fall dramatically short in representing the church’s views on politics, international affairs, social issues and conflicts within the church. But Warsaw said the aim of the program, which will feature interviews with political, ecclesiastical and cultural leaders, will also be to attract “anyone with a moral and ethical framework for how issues of the day play out.”

Bernstein also compared EWTN to Fox News, but favorably, as it “does not stoke right-wing fury” like a presumable:

By planting a stake in Washington — in an office space near Capitol Hill — EWTN hopes to raise its profile on issues where religion converges with public affairs: abortion, contraception, stem cell research, immigration, the death penalty, terrorism and repression of Christians abroad.

“It’s a deliberate choice to be in the midst of everything,” said Warsaw. “We hope it has an impact on policymakers and the inside-the-Beltway crowd.”

Experts on media and Catholic affairs said EWTN will fill a void, because there is no other daily news TV program that is pitched to the estimated 75 million Catholics in the United States. And while the network’s guests include a steady diet of those who represent the conservative wing of the church, EWTN does not stoke right-wing fury like a Fox commentator.

'The Post turned to a professor that accurately described what this Catholic channel does and tries to be:

Stewart M. Hoover, director of the University of Colorado’s Center for Media, Religion and Culture, described EWTN as “a general-interest Catholic service, though with a clearly conservative-traditionalist bent” that would appeal to an older and conservative viewership.

Hoover said he monitored EWTN’s coverage of the papal transition earlier this year. “They didn’t seem so much like a hard news service as a soft-feature framing of the events,” he wrote in an e-mail. “I’d expect their news service from Washington to be similar: Catholic, traditional, tending to soft-pedal controversies in place of serious advocacy on issues like opposition to abortion, et cetera. I’d expect the Bishops Conference to get a lot of attention, too.”

“Will it be the Fox News of Catholicism or religion? I’d doubt they’d be that strong or strident,” he added. “More likely a gentle, dolorous, pious framing of events with strong coverage of Catholicism and its presence in U.S. public culture. Some of the impulse is to try to recreate the Fulton Sheen era,” referring to the bishop and Catholic media star of the 1950s and 1960s.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis