April 17, 2008

NYT: Papal Spectators ‘Residents, Tourists,’ or ‘the Simply Curious’

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:05 pm

NYT Reported 750K Saw Mandela in 1990; Similar Papal Estimates on Way?

It’s early in the papal visit, but I have to wonder if Old Media will get into the level of detail found in the New York Times’s June 21, 1990 coverage of Nelson Mandela’s visit to New York City:

The police estimated that 750,000 people saw Mr. Mandela at one point or another – 50,000 in Queens at Kennedy International Airport and along the route, 100,000 as he passed through Brooklyn, 400,000 along the ticker-tape parade and 200,000 in the ceremony at City Hall. Hundreds of thousands more saw the events broadcast live on local television.

Based on early returns from the Washington Post and the New York Times, we may not see such an estimate regarding the pope, unless some enterprising non-media types come up with one on their own. It also seems that we will have to brace ourselves for other descriptions and write-ups designed to minimize the impact of his visit.

Though it has provided obvious crowd information about specific events, the Post’s description of the crowd along the yesterday’s procession (an event only cryptically referred to a “Popemobile route” in this itinerary) seemed a bit vague, and lacked any evidence of a query to police:

A 21-gun salute greeted the pontiff, along with a crowd of 13,500 guests assembled on the South Lawn (of the White House). Later in the day, Benedict traveled to Catholic University, which handed out 8,000 tickets to watch him arrive for a prayer service with 360 bishops and cardinals at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Northeast Washington.

Yet the day was also marked by far less formal, more intimate moments between Benedict and ordinary people, thousands of whom lined Washington’s streets, hoisting yellow and white papal flags as the pontiff smiled and waved from the back of his white Mercedes Popemobile.

There were clusters of spectators along parts of Massachusetts Avenue and thick crowds, 15 to 20 deep in spots, on Pennsylvania Avenue. Office workers watched from windows, and other people perched on park benches and scaffolding for better views. Many showed up long before noon, the hour when Benedict was scheduled to begin his three-mile procession from the White House back to the embassy.

Though it may be out there, after a number of Google and Google News searches on relevant terms, I have not found any kind of crowd-size estimate for the procession.

Upping the ante, this New York Times story by Neela Bannerjee and Ian Urbina, though nicely titled (“A Welcome of Warmth and a Sense of Unity”), seemed to go out of its way to minimize the size of the crowd and its degree of interest in the Pope’s visit:

The festive vigil began early. By 9 a.m., three hours before Pope Benedict XVI was to drive from the White House to the papal nuncio’s residence, the devout, the distanced, and many of the simply curious lined the barricades along Pennsylvania Avenue to catch a glimpse of the popemobile.

….. Many spectators were local residents or tourists whose visits happened to coincide with the pope’s.

The New York Times’s 1990 coverage of Mandela’s visit included no similar reference to the “curious,” or to “tourists.”

Cross-posted at NewsBuster.org.

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