NEW YORK: Rev. Billy Graham, the famed Evangelist who has been campaigning for Christ since 1957, has always emphasized the ?intersection of faith and culture,? according to his longtime PR director.
And as he embarked on what might be his last major crusade, the media crush was indeed unprecedented, drawing about 750 credentialed media representatives. A typical crusade might see about 200 journalists.
?Some people say that he preaches with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other,? said A. Larry Ross, the president of his eponymous agency and Graham?s director of media and PR since 1981. ?Throughout his ministry, he?s had a policy of engagement with the media.?
But this time ? during his 417th career crusade ? Graham wanted the media coverage to transcend the who-what-where-when-and-why.
?He has, in recent years, had to pace himself,? Ross said. ?Because he has become a limited resource, we have tried to go beyond the obvious to the more unique.?
In the months leading up to the campaign, Ross met with the managers of media outlets to pitch stories about the 20,000 crusade volunteers, the 1,425 churches sponsoring the visit, and the multiculturalism of Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
?One of the things we tried to do is break down the elephant of this campaign into bite-sized chunks,? Ross said.
He pointed to comments that Graham made about never intending to get into politics. ?That was covered as a man bites dog kind of a story,? Ross said.
Since Graham?s age and health limited the number of interviews he could do, Ross noted that there was some triaging, focusing on major media outlets. The evangelist also returned for his 23rd appearance alongside CNN?s Larry King because of their ?good chemistry together,? Ross said.
Ahead of the event, Graham held a press conference at Rockefeller Center, and pre-taped segments for each of the city?s morning shows.
Ross is now working with reporters on long-form pieces about the crusade and the role of religion in the US.
?This is a story that?s much bigger than one event,? Ross said. ?It?s not an event, it?s a process.?