Some horse racing fans in the Washington area were upset yesterday when WDVM-TV-9 decided to cover Pope John Paul II instead of the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
The decision to bypass the CBS network's coverage of the races came when the pope's speech and ceremony at the Organization of American States ran long, according to Ron Townsend, WDVM station manager.
Viewwers responded with a barrage of calls to the station's switchboard after the scheduled coverage of the race did not begin at 5 p.m.
"The race was scheduled for 5:42. When 5:42 came, the pope was right in the middle of his speech," Townsend said. "It wasn't in the best interests of the people to break away in the middle of the pope's speech and cover the horse race and then go back to the pope. It's not every day a pope comes to your city."
Townsend said there was never a doubt the station would stay with the pope. He added that he was sure there would have been even more calls if WDVM had broken away from the speech.
Colleen Kolibas, a CBS spokeswoman in New York, said, "A situation like this when the pope's in Washington is a news emergency. It's nothing unusual."
Townsend said that the station showed the entire race during the 6 p.m. news report.
WDVM will show the Redskins-Philadelphia and Dallas-Minnesota football games today beginning at 1 p.m. According to Paul Malkie, executive news producer, the pope will be covered during halftime of both games. "If there is a major breaking story with the pope, we will be there," he said.