KTLA Channel 5 plans to preempt its regularly scheduled programming for 48 hours to cover Pope John Paul II's first pastoral visit here in September, station officials said Wednesday.
"This is the most significant news event to hit Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympics," said news director Jeff Wald.
As described at a news conference, the continuous coverage will also feature a Spanish simulcast through the station's second audio program, which is designed to reach the 3.5-million Latino population in Southern California.
Several members of KTLA's "News at Ten" crew will be involved in the project, which Wald said is "unprecedented." Anchormen Hal Fishman, Larry McCormick, Sam Chu Lin and Spanish interpreter Analia Sarno Riggle will be joined by Father Michael Manning, a Catholic missionary priest who has his own syndicated television program.
KTLA's veteran reporter Stan Chambers is currently in Rome taping background features as part of a two-week tour that will take him to Krakow, Poland, where the pontiff served as Archbishop, and to Wadowice, his birthplace. There he plans to interview the Pope's friends, co-workers and others who might have insightful comments.
Chambers will also handle live field coverage of the Pope's visit. Joel Tator, former executive producer of KCBS' "2 on the Town," will produce the entire special broadcast.
Aside from the regular "News At Ten" and a daily 12-to-1 p.m. newscast, coverage will only be interrupted by "limited commercials," Wald said.
During the day on Sept. 15 and Sept. 16, he said, KTLA will provide live coverage of the Pope's activities at every possible opportunity. When live coverage is not possible, the station will run Chambers' pre-taped segments. During the wee morning hours, KTLA will run highlights of the previous day's events.
The Pope's itinerary in Los Angeles includes masses at the Memorial Coliseum and Dodger Stadium, meetings with U.S. bishops and a teleconference to 6,000 youths held at the Universal Amphitheatre.
Other Los Angeles TV stations have plans to cover the Pope's visit, none contacted by The Times Wednesday said they would be devoting as much time to it as KTLA.
"Give us 48 hours and we'll give you the Pope," was the response of KCBS-TV Channel 2 publicist Andi Sporkin when she heard about Channel 5's plans. She said that KCBS "will have heavy coverage of the event, but specific plans have not been finalized."
"We haven't made any specific plans," said KHJ-TV Channel 9 spokeswoman Julia Cavagnaro, "but we will provide adequate coverage, which will include live coverage, cut-ins and reports on our 9 p.m. and 1 p.m. newscasts."
In addition to some news coverage, KCET Channel 28 will broadcast two 90-minute shows--a documentary titled "Paradox of the Papacy" and a dramatic one-man program, "I Would Be Called John: Pope John XXIII," starring Charles Durning.