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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 10, 2003

Once-coveted NASA beat has lost prestige among U.S. media

By Tim Rutten
Los Angeles Times

The American news media do two things extremely well:

The Discovery lifts off from Cape Canaveral, Fla. NASA was once a prized assignment for journalists; today, few media outlets have reporters assigned exclusively to cover the space program.

Associated Press

They cover things that go boom — wars of the kind now looming in Iraq and tragedies of the sort that overtook the space shuttle Columbia's seven astronauts. They also chronicle consumerism — who's accumulating what, in what quantities and at what cost.

Beyond that, things get spotty, particularly so when the subject at hand involves ideas, processes, technical subjects, things that require an adult-length attention span.

Nowadays, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and its manned space program are on the spotty part of the media spectrum. In the 1960s, NASA was a prized assignment among news people.

Today, few newspapers have reporters covering the space program full time. Many have made the topic one of those assigned to science or aerospace writers who have many other responsibilities.

Neither ABC, CBS nor NBC has a single correspondent whose responsibilities include covering NASA. CNN has a "space correspondent," Miles O'Brien, but only one-tenth of his on-camera appearances over the last year have involved NASA.

Fox, according to a spokesman, does not cover the space program regularly.