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The Concept of the No-snow Story Explained...

Shortly after Mr. Johnson took over management of the Vietnam war from Mr. Kennedy, the new president determined that there was no need to disrupt family life for a little thing like an undeclared war. Married men, consequently, were no longer to be drafted.

My editor at The Washington Post assigned me to look into the rush to the altar which was certainly occurring even as we spoke. It turned out, though, that business at the marriage license bureau was bumping along at pretty much the usual rate. “There’s your story, then,” the editor said. “Give me ten inches.”

“Classic no-snow story,” an older reporter said when I whined to him about the assignment. A no-snow story, he explained, was one which grew out of the world’s failure to live up to an editor’s expectations. Yesterday’s paper predicted snow, the editor tells his reporter, and yet there is no snow. Our readers will want to know why.

Once the concept was denominated I began to see no-snow stories everywhere, and still do. The failure of Saving Private Ryan to win the Academy Award for best picture gave rise to a regular blizzard of them not long ago. The Natural Law of Unemployment’s stubborn failure to exist has caused a decade of no-snow stories on the nation’s business pages. Where oh where can old Mr. Inflation be hiding?, the baffled editors cry. (The answer is the same one it has been since World War II: Old Mr. Inflation shows up whenever the oil-producing nations manage to set aside individual greed in favor of the common greed for long enough to raise oil prices. Just watch; it’s going on now.)

Never has the real world so disappointed the American press as in the matter of Monica Lewinsky and her reluctant non-but-near-lover. The finest investigative journalists in all the land rooted and snorted about until they had raised what looked to them, blinded inside it, like the biggest dirt storm ever to besmirch our virginal Republic.

And yet poll after poll showed that the rest of us saw only a light smudge on the horizon--one of no particular consequence, or ethical significance.

The most learned and subtle public philosophers in the land--men on the order of George Will, William Safire, William Bennett, William Kristol and the blessèd Father McLaughlin--noted with horror that although they themselves were knee-deep in dirt, only a light dusting of the brown stuff seemed to be visible from outside the beltway.

Manfully the brave fellows bent to the task of instructing us. Over and over they pointed out that we were callous, jaded, indifferent, self-centered, ethically-challenged, over-permissive, undisciplined, rudderless moral relativists, and lost to all shame. Oh, how we winced and cried out under the lash of their tongues!

And most bitter of all was the knowledge that we deserved every last lash. For had we not, wretched souls, let down our editors?

November, 1999


Copyright © 2004 by Jerome Doolittle