The headline screams, “15 Civilians Killed in Attack.” Intrigued, I read on, saddened that our government could perpetrate such a crime against humanity.

Then comes the line, “Taliban Claims 15 Killed by U.S. Bombs.”

Well, if the Taliban says– Confident that I have not been misled by the headline, I continue. There must be some shred of truth in the Taliban’s allegations.

“The claim could not be independently verified.” Well, that’s no reason not to make it into a headline, is it?

So goes my typical daily online sojourn through our nation’s premier news sources. Facing an apparent dearth of substantial information regarding the war on terrorism, the reputable media has reverted to the sort of sensationalism once reserved for the New Haven Register, although the headlines don’t appear in the Register’s standard 72-point font. Each day as I sift through the news in search of a morsel of meaningful information to satisfy my burning curiosity, I find stories which consist almost exclusively of such sensationalism.

My heart goes out to all those affected by the anthrax mailings, but I honestly don’t feel the need to be informed every time an office worker finds a pile of sugar next to the coffee pot. There was a period of about a week when I couldn’t turn on the television without seeing a hazardous materials crew storming a building.

This was generally on the local news, which seems appropriate considering that exactly no anthrax has been found in Connecticut.

By reporting every suspected anthrax infection, every suspected anthrax sighting, and every utterance of the word anthrax, the media is merely fanning the flames of mass hysteria.

On days when there exists not even a stray rumor of American genocide or Armageddon by anthrax, the media, panicking like a student that hasn’t done the reading and is called upon in class, feels compelled to say something about nothing.

Hence, one day’s headline might read, “Taliban Being Hammered into Oblivion,” followed on the next day by “American Bombs Bounce Harmlessly off Invincible Taliban Fighters.” Of course the claims of bomb-proof soldiers could not be independently verified.

When the medium is television, the information need not be made up, merely dressed up. For example, one night while watching MSNBC I was called to attention by the dramatic music emanating from my television.

Not sure whether I had accidentally switched to “Independence Day,” I listened attentively to the anchorwoman live in Pakistan. What ominous news could possibly accompany this adrenaline-inducing music? Her mouth moved, forming measured words, “It’s morning here in Pakistan. But nothing has happened here in a week.”

Now I’m not seeking to second guess television news anchors, but I ask that our impression of the status and morality of the war on terrorism not be unduly influenced by reckless reports of Taliban accusations and anthrax scares. By the way, the information in this column could not be independently verified and is false.

Peter Kops is a sophomore in Calhoun College.