Terrorist Attacks Overshadow Summer's Big Stories

Gary who?

It seems the media frenzy over a certain California congressman and a missing D.C. intern he had an affair with has vanished into the ether.

Brouhaha over singer Mariah Carey’s mental state, actor Ben Affleck’s battle with alcoholism and basketball player Michael Jordan’s exit from retirement has also subsided.

And what has become of all the sharks?

Video: News We Missed Due to the Attack on America

News that captured national media attention more than two weeks ago has practically disappeared since a group of terrorists hijacked four American planes Sept. 11 and used them to destroy the World Trade Center towers and damage a portion of the Pentagon.

"This story isn’t going away," said Belle Adler, a professor of journalism at Northeastern University. "This is so huge and so important. There are so many angles to cover. It’s knocked everything off the front pages."

Before the attacks Rep. Gary Condit and his role, if any, in the disappearance of Chandra Levy were still a focus for many television networks, newspapers and news Web sites. Lately, the only new tidbit related to Condit is that he’s been named to a federal subcommittee on terrorism and security.

"The pressure’s off," Adler said. "The spotlight went away from him in a flash. People aren’t really concerned about him and his sex life anymore."

Among news that broke in the last two weeks but went largely unnoticed: a Florida hurricane, a Utah train derailment and a deadly bridge collapse in Texas.

"They’re almost like local stories now," said Adler. "Who’s going to read them?"

New developments in the cases of comedienne Paula Poundstone and mother Andrea Yates have also cropped up lately – with scant media attention.

A day after the terrorist strikes on the U.S., Poundstone – accused of sexually abusing foster children in her care – pleaded no contest to felony child abuse in exchange for having the sex-related offenses dropped. Her court appearance was covered by only one camera crew, compared to a sea of them that had dogged her in the weeks before.

Yates, the Texas mother accused of drowning her five children, has also been in court recently. A jury decided last week that she was mentally fit to stand trial.

So many news stories have been lost since Sept. 11, it’s hard to keep track. Few knew much about the damage done to parts of western Florida by tropical storm Gabrielle, which brought with it nearly a foot of rain and caused widespread power outages. And Elizabeth Dole received little notice when she announced her plans to run for the Senate seat being vacated by North Carolina’s Jesse Helms.

"All of those are legitimate stories that may or may not be covered to the extent that they should be covered because of our concerns about something as fundamental as our safety," said Phil Matier, a columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle.

Adler theorizes that before the terrorist attacks, there was an overriding lack of real news.

"In times of peace and prosperity, there is not a lot of hard news," she said. "We went for softer stories, we went for celebrity stories. Now, hard news is really coming back. People are interested. It’s a complete turnaround."

She predicts that the public won’t be drained or frustrated by the non-stop media focus on the war on terrorism.

"I don’t think people will tire of it if [the press] is giving them real information they need," Adler said. "We have to hear about it. This is an appropriate use of wall-to-wall coverage."

Fox News’ Claudia Cowan contributed to this report.