JIM LEHRER: And once again to our honor roll of American service personnel killed in Iraq.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Once in a while, the presentation of the news simulates the meaning of the news. So it is with an occasional feature of the NewsHour: The honor roll of the names of the dead in Iraq and Afghanistan that runs in loud silence at the end of a broadcast.
Silence is a rarity when it comes to the news; indeed, an implicit contradiction, since the whole idea of announcing the news suggests a "Hear ye, hear ye" and the urgent noise of bulletins.
But in the NewsHour honor rolls, one hears nothing but the sound of ones own sorrow. This lieutenant, age very young, this PFC, that sergeant, age very young, from small towns with unfamiliar names, and the names of the men and women, as well, which might blessedly have remained anonymous had the people lived. Now they are written on television screens, with death the instrument by which they are noticed.
The presentation of the news simulates the meaning of the news because now the war, too, is reduced to the occasional reminders of its existence. The country has moved on to the issue of Social Security, to stem cell research, to the appointment of federal judges and the U.N. representative; moved on to the baseball season and unpredictable weather.
This is the way with recent wars. No grand truces or treaties at conferences. No Yalta or Potsdam. No emperor conceding defeat. No tyrant-leader in a bunker surrounded by his fanatical faithful, taking his own life before the victorious troops haul him away.
The tyrant in the current war is photographed in his underwear, and is said to be writing a novel. What used to be high drama has become a dread, dragging endlessly and the reports of small, albeit lethal moments -- a bombing, an ambush. The news nowadays seems to be saying, "If you've forgotten that there's a war, well, here's a bit of war."
CORRESPONDENT: Moments after a savage, multiple bomb attack.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: One might, in fact, run an honor roll of these reports: Clips of a bombed out restaurant, or of an overturned vehicle, scrolled down in silence. A presentation like that might emphasize how removed is the war from public attention. But such events do not represent the essence of this war or of any war. The essence is the death of the young, whose absence, whose abbreviated lives will be recalled by their families long after this current iteration of war is declared over.
So, the presentation of the news simulates the meaning of the news. The war thuds in the distance, making so small a sound these days that one can barely hear it. Revive it then in an honor roll of those who cannot be revived, and who are more distant than the war in which they fell. What remains, as ever, is silence and names, names and silence.
I'm Roger Rosenblatt.