Can There Be News in an Absence of Facts? Can There Be News Analysis in an Absence of News?


My ready illustration of talking heads with very little to say has long been the reporting in the immediate aftermath of the Challenger disaster. The nightly news anchors were on the air throughout most of that afternoon and evening, and each of them was provided with a rather large plastic model of the space shuttle, a model whose only remarkable feature seemed to be that the three large fuel tanks were detachable. So some of the most distinguished figures in American broadcast journalism were reduced not only to using that simple model repeatedly as a prop but also to talking about it as if it were something remarkable—as if it were even some sort of contemporary Rosetta Stone that might yet yield some fundamental insight into what had occurred.

The Challenger disaster was, of course, a true national catastrophe. It also occurred less than six years after the founding of…

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