"Duncan - you've just repeated practically word for word what we've just been hearing." The BBC News 24 presenter who said this, sometime on Sunday, was not reproving Duncan for redundancy. In fact, she sounded positively delighted, as though the information overlap offered reassuring proof that Duncan had got his facts right. But her remark nonetheless seemed a perfect epigraph for the purgatorial churn of rolling news right now - and the reason why the coverage has been so febrile and twitchy.
News, by definition, is not another chance to see what you saw yesterday - and yet for hours of the day, that's pretty much all the news channels have to show you, whether it's another shot of that stretch of dual carriageway which currently stands in the Iraqi capital, or live pictures of B-52s taking off from Fairford. Commentary expires in the face of such meagre nourishment - and, as a result, when new footage actually does turn up there is a wild thrashing of water as the pundits go into a feeding frenzy. The reflex urge to analyse even the most self- evident facts can produce surreal moments. On Monday morning, the BBC found itself transmitting Iraqi television pictures of an Apache helicopter in an Iraqi field. "A downed Apache helicopter," explained the presenter, "that's what they are saying. We have no way of verifying that." No way, except by actually looking at the picture, of course. It's possible, I suppose, that the Iraqis knocked it up out of cereal boxes and poster paint - but if so, their model-makers are going to give the Americans a hell of a fight.
The first casualty in the media war has not been truth, in short - it's been any sense of perspective about what such hostilities involve. "I have never seen anything of this magnitude," said CNN's Wolf Blitzer about early bombing raids on Baghdad. This was literally true, since high-altitude bombing of urban centres has not previously been considered a safe spectator sport. …