The Rome-based print journalists who cover the pope try to abide by the Schanche Rule (named for the veteran Los Angeles Times reporter who coined it), which goes that a pope-chronicler should try to eyeball the pontiff at least once each day of a tour.

It seems like a modest enough task, but it isn't. This papal tour is almost exclusively a television spectacle, and newspaper reporters would have a hard time covering every event even if they were allowed to. For all but the public Masses, access has been limited to a small pool of reporters. So most of the hundreds of traveling journalists have spent most of each day in the hotel press center, analyzing prepared texts and watching TV monitors.

This reveals not the laziness of the press but the skillful manipulation of the communications process by the Vatican, led by a pope who often scolds the technological world and yet has mastered its rhetorical uses. Just as his "dialogues" with lay people are really speeches, so it is with the media. His press representative has appeared only once, there is no give and take, and John Paul is distant, disconnected.

An artist for Rolling Stone, trying to capture the essence of the trip, spent Monday in the press room, sketching the hordes of reporters who had flown into yet another city to watch it all on the tube.