The news on Wednesday that the Catholic Church had elected a new pope was treated with an unsurprising amount of excitement from the media.

Thousands of outlets had already descended on the Vatican in the days leading up to the selection, with "smoke-watch" cameras set up to track every moment of the fateful Sistine Chapel chimney that signalled the arrival of a new church leader. Cable news networks spent most of Wednesday stuck firmly on St. Peter's Square, flitting briefly to other stories. There was a palpable sense of anticipation; at one point, CNN ran the chyron "SMOKE COULD COME THIS HOUR" for three straight hours.

When the white smoke finally billowed out of the chimney just a little after 7 PM, all broadcast and cable networks carried it live, with wall-to-wall coverage reminiscent only of a rare number of events, like a presidential election or a royal wedding. Anchors had a bit of trouble figuring out right away whether or not the smoke was actually white. On CNN, Chris Cuomo threw up his hands for a second, saying, "we're going to be transparent about it: we don't know." On Fox News, Megyn Kelly hedged, saying, "it appears gray ... it is whitish..."

The next revelation — that the Pope was Argentina's Jorge Mario Bergoglio, and that he was taking the name Francis — was greeted with equal excitement. "The curtain is moving," someone on CNN could be heard to say. "The curtain is moving!"

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  • In this image made from video provided by CTV, Pope Francis, center left, celebrates his inaugural Mass with cardinals, inside the Sistine Chapel, at the Vatican, Thursday, March 14, 2013. As the 266th pope, Francis inherits a Catholic church in turmoil, beset by the clerical sex abuse scandal, internal divisions and dwindling numbers in parts of the world where Christianity had been strong for centuries. (AP Photo/CTV)

  • In this image made from video provided by CTV, Pope Francis, center, celebrates his inaugural Mass with cardinals, inside the Sistine Chapel, at the Vatican, Thursday, March 14, 2013. As the 266th pope, Francis inherits a Catholic church in turmoil, beset by the clerical sex abuse scandal, internal divisions and dwindling numbers in parts of the world where Christianity had been strong for centuries. (AP Photo/CTV)

  • In this image made from video provided by CTV, Pope Francis celebrates his inaugural Mass with cardinals inside the Sistine Chapel, at the Vatican, Thursday, March 14, 2013. As the 266th pope, Francis inherits a Catholic church in turmoil, beset by the clerical sex abuse scandal, internal divisions and dwindling numbers in parts of the world where Christianity had been strong for centuries. (AP Photo/CTV)

  • Francis

    In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis prays inside St. Mary Major Basilica, in Rome, Thursday, March 14, 2013. Pope Francis opened his first morning as pontiff by praying Thursday at Rome's main basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary, a day after cardinals elected him the first pope from the Americas in a bid to revive a Catholic Church in crisis and give it a preacher with a humble touch. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)

  • CORRECTS YEAR TO 2013 - In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis kneels in prayer in front of the icon of the Virgin Mary inside St. Mary Major Basilica, in Rome, Thursday, March 14, 2013. Pope Francis opened his first morning as pontiff by praying Thursday at Rome's main basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary, a day after cardinals elected him the first pope from the Americas in a bid to revive a Catholic Church in crisis and give it a preacher with a humble touch. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)

  • In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis,center, flanked at left by Cardinal Agostino Vallino, and at right by Cardinal Santos Abril y Castello, walks inside St. Mary Major Basilica, in Rome, Thursday, March 14, 2013. Pope Francis opened his first morning as pontiff by praying Thursday at Rome's main basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary, a day after cardinals elected him the first pope from the Americas in a bid to revive a Catholic Church in crisis and give it a preacher with a humble touch. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)

  • In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis puts flowers on the altar inside St. Mary Major Basilica, in Rome, Thursday, March 14, 2014. Pope Francis opened his first morning as pontiff by praying Thursday at Rome's main basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary, a day after cardinals elected him the first pope from the Americas in a bid to revive a Catholic Church in crisis and give it a preacher with a humble touch. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)

  • Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis

    In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis looks at the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who chose the name of Pope Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)

  • Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio who chose the name of Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

  • Pope Francis puts on his sash from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio who chose the name of Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

  • Pope Francis blesses the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

  • Pope Francis watches the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

  • Pope Francis speaks from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio who chose the name of Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

  • Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

  • Women react after hearing on the speakers at the Metropolitan Cathedral that Buenos Aires' Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio was chosen as Pope in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Bergoglio is the first pope ever from the Americas and the first from outside Europe in more than a millennium. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

  • Pope Francis puts on his sash from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

  • People react as Pope Francis speaks from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who chose the name of Pope Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

  • Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

  • Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

  • Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio who chose the name of Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

  • Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

  • Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis

    In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis waves the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who chose the name of Pope Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)

  • Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis

    In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis delivers his blessing to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who chose the name of Pope Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)

  • Pope Francis addresses the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

  • Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis

    In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis, center in white, talks to the crowd, flanked by cardinals including Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, right, Giovanni Battista Re, second from right, and Agostino Vallini, second from left, from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who chose the name of Pope Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)

  • Pope Francis and cardinals pray from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis was named Wednesday the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

  • A nun reacts after white smoke billowed from the chimney on the Sistine Chapel indicating that a new pope has been elected in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Pope Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

  • Faithful gather in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who took the name of Pope Francis, was elected on Wednesday the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

  • Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio who chose the name of Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

  • Pope Francis puts on his sash from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio who chose the name of Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

  • Cleric watch as Pope Francis speaks to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

  • A Swiss guard salutes in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Argentine Jorge Bergoglio was elected pope Wednesday and chose the papal name Francis, becoming first pontiff from the Americas and the first from outside Europe in more than a millennium. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

  • Cardinals wait for newly elected Pope Francis to speak from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio who chose the name of Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

  • Visitors take photos of Pope Francis as he speaks from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

  • Pope Francis speaks from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio who chose the name of Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

  • Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

  • Pope Francis speaks from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio who chose the name of Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

  • A noon reacts after white smoke billowed from the chimney on the Sistine Chapel indicating that a new pope has been elected in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Pope Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

  • Pope Francis speaks from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio who chose the name of Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

  • Pope Francis speaks from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio who chose the name of Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

  • Pope Francis speaks from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio who chose the name of Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

  • Cardinals watch as Pope Francis speaks to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

  • Pope Francis speak to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

  • Visitors take photos of Pope Francis as he speaks from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

  • A faithful prays at the Toledo's Cathedral, where Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer worked as a priest in Toledo, Brazil, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. On Wednesday, March 13, 2013, Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected pope, the first ever from the Americas and the first from outside Europe in more than a millennium. Scherer was considered a likely contender to be named pope. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

  • Pope Francis speaks from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio who chose the name of Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

  • Pope Francis blesses the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013, shortly after being elected pope. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

  • Pope Francis speaks from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio who chose the name of Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

  • Pope Francis speaks from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio who chose the name of Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

  • Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

  • Pope Francis speaks from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio who chose the name of Francis, is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)