December 16, 2018

WFSB’s Kevin Hogan Reveals What You Didn’t See on TV When the Pope Visited

WFSB News Director Kevin Hogan on assignment in New York City covering Pope Francis’s visit

WFSB News Director Kevin Hogan on assignment in New York City covering Pope Francis’s visit

Editor’s Note: Lyme, CT resident and WFSB News Director Kevin Hogan covered Pope Francis’s recent trip to the US in each of the three cities of Washington DC, New York and Philadelphia that the Pope visited. We are thrilled that Kevin has chosen to share some insights with us from those hectic days on the road and express our sincere appreciation to him on behalf of all our readers.

During my 42 years as a broadcast journalist, I’ve covered many high-profile world leaders. Last week I had the distinct, exhausting pleasure to cover Pope Francis in Washington, New York City and Philadelphia.

While the Holy Father was in Cuba, my Channel 3 videographer Jeff Kolan and I set the GPS in our news car for the Marriott Marquis in Washington, D.C. The Marquis was the media mecca for all 3,000 journalists cleared by the Secret Service and the Vatican to cover Pope Francis on this historic trip. Even before checking in to our hotel in Arlington, we had to obtain our credentials for the week.

The planning for our coverage began months earlier when we had to apply for credentials, our managers had to coordinate with our CBS Newspath directors to ensure broadcast quality transmission and communication in all three locations and venues. Weeks before we even filled up the car and gathered gear, I was making contact with all the known and possibly unknown religious and other organizations planning to be with the Holy Father. Yes, the Archbishop from Hartford and Bishops from Bridgeport and Norwich diocese were attending, as well as the Knights of Columbus in New Haven. The Knights World Headquarters is in the Elm City.

Thankfully it was up to my managers to secure hotel reservations. We knew getting around each city under extremely tight security was going to be a challenge. So getting a hotel close to the heart of the action at this stage of the game was not going to be easy. In Washington, we were put up in Arlington, Va. Not a bad drive. Some taxis were available, but most of the time we walked. Jeff and I averaged 4 to 5 miles per day in DC.

Kevin Hogan stands in front of the Capitol in DC.

Kevin Hogan stands with the waiting crowds behind him in DC.

We walked with the throngs of visitors along miles of steel mesh barricades, through Airport Style electronic security sensor checkpoints with bomb sniffing dogs to stand for hours on the lawn of the Capitol. While Pope Francis was giving the first address by a Pope to a joint session of Congress, we were attempting to find Connecticut residents amongst the gathering of 50,000. We found people with relatives in Connecticut, Priests who’ve studied in Connecticut and even TV reporter Les Trent from Inside Edition. Nice guy, by the way. His photographer recognized my photographer from an earlier assignment.

We found Nutmeggers in DC, who were not there necessarily to see Pope Francis but to hawk Vatican related souvenirs. Dave Thomas of New Haven brought $150,000 worth of supplies to sell. No, he didn’t have a Pope doll or the much sought after Pope bobble-head because they were made of a breakable ceramic that would be a security risk.

Dumb me, on the morning of the Canonization Mass for Franciscan Junipero Serra, it didn’t dawn on me until I was in checkpoint line for security that I realized I had two of my coveted multi-tools in my LL Bean canvass shoulder bag. Lesson learned. Security was nice about it. No, I couldn’t get that back.

We had the most perfect vantage point during the Mass, four stories high on a scaffolding riser with all the other world media watching down and absorbing this beautiful event.

Our producers wanted us to talk to the morning team on Thursday … anchors Eric Parker of Old Lyme and Irene O’Connor. Our wake up time was 4 a.m. We were LIVE on the air at 5:10 a.m. and ready for another looooong day. Thursday was also the day we had to checkout early and hit the road after our live broadcast at 6 and head for New York.

Kevin Hogan and Jeff Kholan take a brief break for a photo.

Kevin Hogan and Jeff Kolan take a brief break for a photo.

Videographer Jeff Kolan grew up in southern New Jersey and he made a calculated foodie stop at his favorite hotdog stand, The Doghouse. He treated me to a real, honest-to-goodness Philadelphia Cheese steak loaded with mushrooms and onions. Funny, you see all these world leaders and you gravitate to the food memory. I savored it all.

We checked into our hotel at midnight and got up at 8 a.m. Why the Doubletree in midtown doesn’t have a coffee maker in the room, I’ll never figure that one out. I needed one.

We were in New York one day, packed and checked out bound for Philadelphia and the last leg of our trip.

Did you see the Pope? Not in person in DC or New York because our timing was off. If you wanted to see the Holy Father in Person, you had to take a position in an area he was scheduled to be and stake it out for hours.

In the Big Apple, we hooked up with Susan and Dr. Robert Staab of Old Lyme and members of Christ the King Church. The Staabs, as members of the Order of Malta — a 900-year-old organization that helps the Vatican — were invited to attend the Papal Mass Friday evening in Madison Square Garden. They were just 13 rows from the Holy Father. Me? Jeff and I were on the road for Philly hoping to get ahead of the Pope.

Philadelphia was given the name “POPEACOLYPSE”. Because a more than two square mile area was walled off to vehicles, pedestrian traffic only.

Our hotel was on the fringe of the fence line. On Saturday morning we woke at 5 and were out the door heading to a live location at KYW TV, the CBS affiliate. It was a short 2.5 mile walk through two security checkpoints, minus my multi-tools.

As soon as we finished our live shot … and watched on TV as the Holy Father’s Aircraft landed we got word that his motorcade would drive right near the TV station. Jeff and I bolted and made feet for a fixed position right on the highway exit ramp. In a matter of minutes, a long procession of motorcycle officers roared past followed by black SUV’s and more motorcycles with the U.S. Flag and the flag of the Vatican See.

Yes, it was Pope Francis.

With an excited Kevin Hogan watching, Pope Francis drives by in his famous Fiat

With an excited Kevin Hogan watching, Pope Francis drives by in his famous Fiat through the streets of Philadelphia.

Homeland Security warned us to back off the ramp … as we did a small black FIAT carrying Pope Francis on the other side … came into view. Like a little child I raised my arm stretching my Channel 3 Microphone high into the air and waved it wildly! I saw Pope Francis raise his left arm and wave back. I snapped a selfie shot … and captured a moment in time.

There were hundreds of thousands of people in Philadelphia. On Saturday we walked 13.5 miles. We walked a total of 38 miles during the whole U.S. tour.

Each day we encountered wonderful people, officers, security personal from all over the U.S. Amazingly the visitors of all ages and cultures dressed as if they were going to Sunday Church. There was a calm in each city we visited. There was excitement in the air because The Pope was here.

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