When the TV news outlets get their teeth into a story they really go overboard, chewing it for all it’s worth. They did this recently with Anna Nicole Smith’s death, day after day, with items and guesses about the blonde bombshell from Mexia, Texas, who became famous for marrying a rich old man and fighting his heirs for his fortune.

We saw more of the former Playmate than most of us wanted to see. I nearly wore out my remote searching the news channels, but changing the channel didn’t give us any real news. I found nothing while switching from CNN to MSNBC and finally to the Fake News Network (known as FOX by some viewers and avoided by me at every opportunity).

Then, just in time to keep us uninformed about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the airwaves were full of the senators running for president. The news anchors kept asking, ‘Who is ahead? How much money have they raised?’ All this “news” will be with us for the next year and a half. So don’t give up your newspaper subscription.

An equal-opportunity bigot, Don Imus, misspoke when he referred to the losing NCAA women’s basketball team from RutgersUniversity in an uncomplimentary fashion.

Instead of war news we got a week of Imus’ sin, apology and the network’s firing him. This always happens if your sponsors start canceling on you. Just as his remark was over the line, so were the news networks presenting the incident.

The News Hour on PBS slipped in a few other events of note, but, like its competition, also spent too much time on Imus.

Last week the tragic slaughter of students and teachers at Virginia Tech took center stage. Every network wants to get the story first. What they should be trying to do is get it right. Several stations reported the killer was a Chinese from Shanghai. Others hinted it might be a Muslim. All this guesswork has no place in a reputable news organization. It turns out he was a very disturbed South Korean green card holder or legal immigrant.

All the talk about the killing has so far avoided the main issue: assault weapons. The killer used rapid-fire guns that resemble the fire-power of an AK-47. The National Rifle Association is for allowing the sale of these guns in this country. They are no good for the hunter, and their violence challenges the American dream.

Assault weapons are made only to kill people. They should be outlawed. More people are killed overnight in Los Angeles than in a year in Europe. The “wild west” was a myth, but today’s gun laws are a joke.

The hunter already has a great advantage over the deer, dove or squirrel with an ordinary hunting rifle and has no need for a 15-clip pistol.

One last thought: the suffering at Virginia Tech goes on every day in Baghdad. The fear, horror and uncertainty, death lurking at the door. Never knowing what is around the corner of the market or in the classrooms. Iraqis have lived such a life for more than four years.

In the last two weeks as many American servicemen have been killed in Iraq as were killed on the Virginia campus. Fifteen to 30 Iraqis are murdered there every day.

Have we become hardened to the war? Many of those who have died in Iraq were the same age as the college students and hoped one day to go to college.

Britt Towery, a retired Baptist missionary, writes for the Brownwood Bulletin in Brownwood, Texas.

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