Toronto Star associate editor Alison Uncles believes it was an easy decision to offer so much print and online coverage to the consistory - “There are 1.3 million Catholics in the GTA,” she said. “We tend to under-serve them in our coverage. This was an opportunity to go big on a story that would have been quite important to them.”

Torontonians show great interest in Collins’ step up in the Church

  • February 22, 2012

TORONTO - Cardinal Thomas Collins was big news over the two weeks leading up to his elevation to the College of Cardinals.

Every major news organization in Canada covered the event in Rome with news reports, analysis, feature interviews, photos, videos and live blogging. Canada’s largest newspaper kicked its coverage off with a two-part profile of Collins that ate up pages of precious newsprint.

“It was acres, wasn’t it?” said Toronto Star associate editor Alison Uncles. “It was thousands of words.”

Uncles and her team assigned a feature writer to write a long personal profile of Collins and then follow it up with an in-depth look at the cardinal’s role in the Canadian Church.

The decision to dedicate time and resources to covering Collins’ elevation wasn’t difficult, said Uncles.

“There are 1.3 million Catholics in the GTA,” she said. “We tend to under-serve them in our coverage. This was an opportunity to go big on a story that would have been quite important to them.”

Beyond the newsworthiness of the one English Canadian who will cast a vote on the next pope, Collins himself is an “intriguing figure,” according to Uncles.

“We knew he would be a great profile subject,” she said.

The coverage struck a chord with readers.

“People were reading it (on the paper’s web site) and e-mailing it on — which is always a great sign to us,” said Uncles.

The Catholic Register’s extensive coverage of Collins’ drove this newspaper’s biggest two days on the web in more than three years. More than 18,000 people on Feb. 19 and 20 were checking out for a 4,500-word profile of Collins, background material on the history of the College of Cardinals and daily updates from Rome.

At Salt+Light Television’s web site,, visits spiked to nearly three times normal traffic. Over the weekend that Collins was made a cardinal, 8,600 people visited the digital broadcaster’s English language web site. A video Salt+Light posted to of Collins receiving the ring and red biretta from Pope Benedict XVI attracted 2,700 viewers in less than two days.

The ultimate expression of Catholic appreciation for anything is impossible to measure. An untold number of prayers of thanksgiving and hope were said for Collins in his new role.

At Masses throughout the archdiocese of Toronto Feb. 19 parishes prayed for Collins just before eucharistic prayers. The suggested wording sent from the archdiocese’s administrative offices to Toronto’s 222 parishes was, “For our bishop, Thomas Collins, elevated to the College of Cardinals on Saturday, Feb. 18, we pray that the Holy Spirit continue to guide him and the faithful of the archdiocese. We pray to the Lord.”

Those Toronto prayers of thanksgiving will continue with five Masses planned over a two-week period.

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