One of the people who follow my blog asked me if I would write a column about what it was like behind the scenes while covering the Pope’s visit to New York. I’m happy to oblige him.
The Friday morning session covering the Pope’s address to the United Nations General Assembly was the tough one, as we had to be outside the United Nations at 3:30 AM. I had been at the Cathedral the night before for Vespers with the Pope and didn’t get home till almost 10:00 PM, so I was a little on the tired side. We made our way to the press pod, which was simply a fenced off area of United Nations Plaza in which each news crew was given an area designated merely by a piece of paper on the fence. We all had to have credentials and wear them through the police checkpoint. Once we were inside, it was all makeshift work. The crew had been there earlier to set up our space and the cameras. We sat in folding beach chairs while off camera and munched on whatever snacks we had brought. The fun part was finding a bathroom to use. There were no port-a-potties, and eventually found a residential building that graciously allowed us to use their basement facilities: we were there until 1:30 PM. I at least had a lot of time to sit and even catch a few winks, but poor Mary Calvi had to stand in front of the camera almost the whole morning!
Mary gave me a heads up as to what topic she wanted to discuss in the next segment, so I was never totally caught off guard. We were being fed information constantly from the studio via Mary’s ipad, and we discussed when we would talk about each topic and who would say what. She also asked me to add any information I knew as a priest that could add to the discussion at that point, which we did smoothly. They liked when I threw in a little comic relief, such as when I said it was too bad the Pope came all the way to New York and couldn’t take in a Broadway show! I did NOT mention – although the thought did cross my mind – of what would have happened if he did and the controversial topless ladies tried to pose for a picture with him! (You have to exercise quick discretion when you are on live TV!) I’d worked with Mary Calvi before and we’ve developed a nice style together. But this was the first time we were live!
Thankfully, the weather was warm and balmy. We were treated to a beautiful sunrise over the East River and a beautiful sunny day. This was the first time I had ever used the earpiece with the studio giving us info in our ears, even as we are talking. You really needed to be a multi-tasker and be able to continue what you are saying while someone is sending you messages in your ear. The messages varied from when they’d be getting back to us through when to end discussion. I got caught off guard only once: we had a TV in front of us so we could see what was being broadcast at the time. Of course, you can’t see it while you’re looking directly into the camera, and at one point I thought we were off camera and looked down at the screen, only to discover to my horror that I was still on and was now looking at the ground on live TV! Uggh! The only time I almost got thrown was when a woman from the crowd walked up to the fence behind me while I was talking on TV and started asking the reporter in the next row in a very loud voice where the bathroom was! I felt like stopping and yelling, “Hey! I’m working here!” Fortunately, I didn’t, as I don’t think the studio would have been pleased. There was a lot of down time when we weren’t on, and I got to know the crew very well. We became instant friends, and although I was exhausted by the end, I felt sad that I was saying goodbye to them, as they were such great people!
The Saturday morning segment at the studio was standard office work: people were checking over schedules and text for the segment. I didn’t get a full view of what everybody did and how it made its way to the script for the anchors, but what I saw was a friendly office-like process humming along. On the set, most was about the logistics of how high my chair was and whether I was too close or too far away from Mary Calvi. Fortunately, during the stretches where I was not on the air I was able to leave the table and take a bathroom break. I did get one personal delight, though. Before I studied for the priesthood I studied meteorology to be a TV weatherman. I was able to stand at the weatherman’s post and pretend I was giving a forecast. Of course it was all off camera and during commercial break so that it never interfered with the production, but it was still a fulfilling moment. When I was finally finished and told I could go home,
it was so anti-climactic. There had been so much work building up to the Pope’s visit, and I made several new friends, but they still had to continue their work, and we could only get a quick goodbye. I did get official feedback from CBS afterwards saying that the response from viewers was overwhelming and positive, and they asked if I’d be willing to come back for future events. Of course I said yes!
After all was said and done, I enjoyed the experience greatly, but I was never so happy to get back to my parish and do the work that is my real vocation!
Well, thanks! I appreciate your trust in me and your support.
Father Carrozza, first off let me say I am sorry if I have stirred up a bees’ nest. I got a reply today from the Archdiocese of New York and it was not good, to say the least. I am not sure what you did to upset him, but ultimately the answer was “no.” Please forgive me if I should not have ever done this!
Hi Billy! Don’t be upset about it. It was actually a long shot anyway. The Cardinal already has his own show on Sirius, and there are other shows out there. Besides, You would have needed CBS to approve it, and I don’t know if Mary Calvi would have been interested. I also don’t know where I would have found the time to do a regular TV show anyway. But I greatly appreciate your confidence in my ability. Keep reading my blog, and keep me in your prayers. I do get a few hecklers on my blog, so your support and good votes are always appreciated.
Thank you for not being upset. Given how negative the letter was, I thought you would be angry. It is one thing to disagree and quite another to call names! Thanks again, Father, you’re the best!
Great stuff! Thank you!
I agree that you and Mary Calvi have developed a nice style together. I am wondering if a regular show with the two of you might be possible in the future? I am thinking of a religion show that could air Sunday mornings? It could focus on local Catholic topics. With your knowledge and charisma and Mary’s journalistic experience this show is guaranteed to be a winner! Would you mind if I wrote a letter to Cardinal Dolan on your behalf about this?
Thank you Billy! I appreciate your support. You may write to Cardinal Dolan if you wish, just please make sure it doesn’t sound like I put you up to it. We’ll have to see what the future holds in story for the Calvi/Carrozza hour! 🙂
Thank you Father for your permission. I will tell the Cardinal that we both think this is a great idea and how can we get the “Carozza-Calvi Catholic Hour” going. I know the Cardinal will have a few strings he can pull! The New Evangelization!
Actually, I think it best if you mention that it is your idea solely. I was with him last week, and he might wonder why I didn’t bring it up in our meeting. Since it is purely your idea, you may take full credit for it.
Hi Father Carrozza, I did not see your post until after I sent the note to the Cardinal. I am sure he will understand! I said that we both think it is a good idea and that even Mary Calvi thinks the two of you have developed a nice style together and that it would be great of that style could develop into the Carrozza Calvi Catholic Hour every Sunday morning at 9am on CBS. We need to have a Catholic presense on the airwaves Father for the new evangelization. Here in NY, you are the man who can do that! You have MORE than proved that! Let’s push ahead!
Thanks so much!
I saw you on tv and i thought you did such an excellent job! God bless you!
Sound grueling but fun! Very interesting. Thank you!
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