News is what happened, not

News is what happened, not what happens
: So today we had an object lesson in the difficulties of live news.

I wasn’t brave enough to predict this publicly as it happened, but be honest: We all knew that the white van at the gas-station phone had bupkus to do with the sniper.

If you were a city editor at a paper, you wouldn’t have hesitated: You’d send lots of reporters and photographers and that’d be OK because by the time you were ready to publish, you’d know whether the story had merit — and the world wouldn’t be watching your reporting.

But on cable news, the world watches. The world can’t help but watch. It’s a great show. So the nonstories become stories because it’s all live and there’s no time to find out what we know and don’t know … and it leads a few blogs to jump to conclusions (see below).

Beware: News isn’t about being a pundit. News is about being a factfinder.