On Friday’s NewsNight, Paula Zahn asked CNN analyst John Allen about the challenge media organizations face in covering the Vatican. It was very insightful:
|ALLEN: The media, like nature, abhors a vacuum. And although the Vatican, by its own standards in the last 48 hours or so has actually been remarkably forthcoming about the pope’s condition, it certainly has by no means fed the appetite of a 24 hour a day seven day a week news industry. And when there is a paucity of information to work on, as is the present moment. The last Vatican moment was some almost 11 hours ago now, what tends to take over is speculation, rumor and innuendo.|
That’s also fueled by the fact that the Italian press has many strengths, but a concern for factual accuracy isn’t always top of the list. And so the truth is that in this environment you are going to have many false leads. And, of course, in this moment when there is great concern for the pope, and the Vatican is, in essence, on autopilot, awaiting news of the pope’s condition, it’s very difficult to get through to senior, well-placed, authoritative sources quickly who can put the rumors to rest. And so they tend to take on a life of their own.
That’s why throughout this day and throughout the week that’s led up to this moment, I and others have been trying to strike as many notes of caution as humanly possible of let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s not follow every wisp of the wind that comes along. Because the truth is the last couple of weeks, Paula, have simply been filled with one rumor about the pope’s condition after another and I think it’s been important to exercise some discipline to make sure we don’t get ahead of the facts.