Crux of the coverage of the pope’s visit

Crux, the Boston Globe-owned vertical dedicated to all things Catholic, would likely not exist if not for the phenom known as Pope Francis. The worldwide interest in the man formerly known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio pushed the Globe into creating the standalone site and, in a hiring coup, brought renowned Vatican observer John Allen into the fold as associate editor.

As Francis makes his first visit to the United States as pontiff, it would seem this is Crux‘s chance to shine. But a look at the website as well as the crossover coverage in the Globe finds little to differentiate Crux from much of the blanket coverage by the legacy media, especially the New York Times and Washington Post with the pope’s stops in those two cities.

On the Crux website, which in quantity of stories takes a backseat to no one, there are nearly as many wire service pieces as there are staff and correspondent bylines. There is some inside analysis by Allen, though he has offered similar takes in his job as CNN correspondent when appearing on camera for that network. Crux national reporter Michael J. O’Loughlin offers some personal observations, such as the fact the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, where the pope addressed some 300 bishops, was his home parish when O’Loughlin lived in the nation’s capital.

But much of the coverage of Pope Francis’s visit has revolved around the politics and the optics, with what he says and where he says it getting parsed by pundits around the country. It’s hard for Crux‘s limited staff, with their background in “Covering all things Catholic,” as the website’s slogan declares, to stand out in a flood of media coverage that is placing the visit in the context of American politics and culture.

Perhaps, though, that’s what readers should realize. Crux strength is in covering Catholicism and church policy as well as analyzing the goings on in Vatican City. Allen can pound out a 2,000-word analysis of the pope’s encyclical on climate change and what its foundation is in church dogma before most other reporters can even divine its message. Or he can give insight into why Francis’s annulment reform matters.

Correspondent Ines St. Martin is a native of Francis’s home country of Argentina and can use her connections and knowledge of the pope’s advisors to put context into his actions and speeches on homelessness and immigration. O’Loughlin, a former writer for the National Catholic Reporter, uses his ties to the nation’s bishops to report on issues affecting the changing tides in the church on this side of the Atlantic. And columnist Margery Eagan has been giving voice to the local congregations and disaffected Catholics about how the church impacts their lives and what they want to see from leaders.

The access to travel with the pope’s media pool and the ability to report first-hand on his visit is clearly a benefit to Globe and Crux readers. But for the interactions between Francis and President Obama, his speech to Congress, or his visit to the United Nations, there is no dearth of media destinations.

Once the pope returns to the Holy See and political reporters return to their beats here, there will still be interest in what Francis – and, by extension, the church – has to say and what he’s doing to effect world change. In that, Crux will continue to have the upper hand. Perhaps this visit will bring new readers along.




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