Deathwatch 3? -- For what seemed like weeks, America hung on to Terri Schiavo's every heartbeat, waiting for news, status reports and prognoses, learning the inner workings of a life-support system and trying to will away her inevitable end. Then we spent days in rapt attention to reports out of the Vatican.
So what are you to do when there are no more famous, lingering deaths to follow? Find more. Prince Rainier of Monaco, former royal husband to actress Grace Kelly, is reported to be at death's door. Europe's longest-serving living monarch has been in the hospital since March with heart, lung and kidney problems, and his condition is being described -- get this -- as "precarious."
Schiavo by the Numbers -- According to TVEyes, a service that monitors key-word mentions on cable and network news, Schiavogate (it reached "-gate" status, didn't it?) outdid even the tsunami in Asia in number of times talking heads force-fed it to viewers. In fact, despite the tsunami-related death toll of around 300,000, the name "Schiavo" was more ubiquitous in the two weeks after the story broke than the word "tsunami" after the deadly flooding. TVEyes found that "Schiavo" was mentioned more than 15,000 times in two weeks, while "tsunami" was mentioned 9,000 in the two weeks after that crisis started.
Lost in the Rush -- Lots of "Schiavo" mentions means fewer mentions of other news items potentially as important. Case in point: During the two weeks of wall-to-wall Terri Schiavo coverage, the word "Iraq" was only heard about 2,900 times.
Even Bigger -- If you thought "Schiavo" was going to stay on the top of the "key-word mentions" heap for long, you were wrong. Again according to TVEyes, starting last Friday morning, when the seriousness of the Pope's health condition hit the news, through midnight Sunday, cable and network news mentioned the word "Pope" 8,321 times. Do the math: 8,300 mentions over 72 hours is about a mention every 30 seconds.
A Silver Bullet? -- With our dwindling public resources, it often makes you wonder: What if there was some kind of commodity, widely used, that the government could tax to create a whole new, robust revenue stream. Cigarettes, you say? No, they're already taxed to the max. Hint: Maybe it's something currently illegal. Ponder this question while you read this week's cover story, and you'll see where we're going with this one.
Publication date: 04/07/04