Dean Barnett

Three short years ago before I started blogging, literally no one knew who I was outside of my family. And even my cousins would sometimes forget my name. And yet on Monday, I found myself part of “big media” covering the tragedy at Virginia Tech while sitting in for Hugh Hewitt on Hugh’s radio show. While I still have the mentality of an outsider, I was very much on the inside of the coverage of the Virginia Tech story as I reported it to millions of listeners. Oh, the things I saw. And learned.

Monday was the first time I had the privilege of pinch-hitting for Hugh. I had spent the weekend arranging an eclectic and interesting roster of guests, ranging from Roger L. Simon to Bill Kristol to a big rock star who is actually highly and movingly patriotic. (I’m withholding his name so when he does appear on the show it will still be an exciting surprise.) By Monday afternoon, all that was out the window.

But not everyone understands why it had to go out the window and why everyone in the media spent days talking about the Virginia Tech massacre and little else. Until I was part of the story Monday, I really didn’t appreciate how these things work. Now I do. Or at least I think I do.

WHAT HAPPENED AT VIRGINIA TECH WAS a huge story and a national day of trauma. We had to devote our broadcast to it because that’s what people wanted to talk about. What’s more talking, about anything else would have been disrespectful. Monday was obviously not an appropriate day for “business as usual” in the media.

And there’s another side to things. People, a.k.a. listeners, wanted to hear about what happened at Virginia Tech and they wanted to talk about it. As a news talk show, we had to go where the interest was. Virginia Tech was where the interest and news was on Monday.

But still, some people might wonder why Fox News and CNN were non-stop Virginia Tech all the time most of the week, and neglected most everything else including a horrific bombing in Baghdad that took well over 100 lives. There’s actually a simple explanation for this.

If you’re reading this column, you’re by definition a high-end consumer of news. You like news, and you acquire a lot of it. Chances are you read blogs for several hours a week, and Fox or CNN provides the background music to your life.

These habits make you an outlier. Don’t take offense – I mean that in a good way. Lord knows we’re the same. But most people spend a fraction of the time devouring the news that we do. Most of the country has never heard of Harry Reid. For us, he’s been an annoying fixture in our lives since 2002.

Dean Barnett

Dean Barnett blogs almost daily at He has also been a frequent contributor to the Weekly Standard's online edition, The Daily Standard. He can be reached for comment at

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