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World survives latest premature obit; media credibility is another story

The world plodded on over the weekend, with The Rapture a no show while the media lapped it up as though there were no tomorrow.

It's long been the end of the world as we know it in respect to turning a non-story into a big story. Except that it keeps getting worse. This time out, an old crackpot preacher from earthquake-jittered California bought massive coverage by putting up a bunch of "Judgment Day" billboards.

Even Nightline bit hard, turning the gibberish of 89-year-old Family Radio bible thumper Harold Camper into its lead story on Friday's edition. Ted Koppel would be rotating in his grave had he been lowered into one. Instead he can rest in peace on his considerable laurels, knowing full well that his higher-minded Nightline at the very most would have signed off Friday with a wry observation on the order of "We hope to see you on Monday."

Nightline obviously wasn't alone. Local newscasts around the country, including in D-FW, happily jumped onto the end-is-nigh bandwagon with lead stories during an ongoing ratings "sweeps" period. It's one thing to toy around with such pronouncements with little asides or sidebars here and there. But many media outlets seemed all too willing to take this fairly seriously with top-of-the-news coverage. Don't mess with Mother Nature or Judgment Day, because one of these days . . .

In the end -- which wasn't -- Harold wasn't a very happy Camper. He pronounced himself "flabbergasted" Sunday in an interview with The San Francisco Chronicle, bemoaning the "really tough weekend" he'd just been through.

Yeah, it can be pretty disheartening when the world declines to go up in one giant ball of flame. Especially when you've positively guaranteed it with the zeal of a bearded Men's Wearhouse owner. So Oprah Winfrey's going to get her big three-day televised send-off after all. And we'll see who wins both Dancing with the Stars and American Idol.

Best of all, though, the Dallas Mavericks will be allowed to continue their quest for the team's first-ever NBA championship. Come hell or high water, you don't want to mess with that.

Meanwhile, the collective media -- Nightline included -- will resume their search for another easily digested non-story promulgated by a nut case. 'Cause that's what makes the world go 'round. Now more than ever.