An eerie echo

It was hard not to be both appalled and fascinated by the media coverage of the death of John F. Kennedy, Jr. The omnivorous appetite for copy and spectacle that fuels TV news networks like CNN and MSNBC has pushed the more venerable networks toward similar excess. As a consequence, the tragedy was covered at absurd length. For an entire week the airwaves and headlines were dominated by the futile search for Kennedy’s plane, then its eventual discovery along with the bodies of Kennedy, his wife Carolyn, and her sister Lauren Bessette, the subsequent commitment of ashes to the sea off of Martha’s Vineyard, and finally the memorial services in New York City and Connecticut. Lacking incident and the possibility of dramatic development, the news story turned to the past-to the Kennedy presidency and the thousand days of "Camelot"-and to the shadows the past continues to throw on the present.

Many thought interest in Kennedy’s fate amounted to little more than gossip. But the death under tragic circumstances of an assassinated president’s only son-moreover a son who shared much of his father’s charisma and grace-is news. Nor is there any denying the heartfelt if inchoate grief felt by millions of Americans who saw in this latest and most inexplicable Kennedy loss an eerie echo of the trauma visited on the nation by the murder of a young president.

To be sure, there is something inherently trivializing about...

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