EWTN Prepares to Launch Its News Show with Stories “Through a Catholic Lens”

It will debut next month from studios in Washington, and the Washington Post has a preview:

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 Michael P. Warsaw, EWTN’s president and chief executive. “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.

“EWTN has a lot of people on its air, and they don’t all sing from the same songbook,” said John L. Allen Jr., a Vatican authority and senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter.

EWTN’s influence, and presumably that of its newscast, derives in large measure from its devoted audience and sheer reach — there’s hardly a place on Earth its signal does not go. Exact viewership numbers are impossible to know, especially because it’s available in more than 140 countries and territories. Nevertheless, said Allen, EWTN is “the biggest game in town in the Catholic-broadcast universe. The big prize is trying to get on their air or get them involved in what you are doing.”…

…The host of “EWTN News Nightly With Colleen Carroll Campbell” is a 38-year-old journalist and author who has written speeches for President George W. Bush and earlier this year anchored EWTN’s live television coverage of the papal conclave from Rome.

Campbell said she hopes to represent the perspective of women who often feel “committed to their faith and don’t see it as an impediment to being vocal in the public square.” She added, “too often there’s a caricature of Catholic women as a bunch of sheep.”

To Campbell, the attraction of EWTN is its “broad catholic — with a big C and a small C — outlook on issues.” She said an attempt will be made to show viewers how their Catholic faith can connect them to issues such as conflicts abroad, poverty and cultural battles that were not on their radar.

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.

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