On split-screen news events

Left: University students hold a candlelight vigil for the passengers of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in Manila on March 13, 2014. Right: Pro-Ukrainian demonstrators march in the streets of Simferopol in support of the Crimean Tatar community, March 14, 2014. Ted Aljibe, Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images

The last time I can remember two such compelling stories competing for our attention was 1997.

Bill Clinton about to make the first State of the Union speech of his second term when word came that a verdict was coming down in O.J. Simpson's civil trial.

The nation was mesmerized by anything and everything O.J., and every TV newsroom confronted one question: What do we do if the verdict comes in the middle of the president's speech?

Do we cut away and broadcast the verdict? Do we go to split-screen, with the president on one side and O.J. on the other?

Fortunately, the verdict came as the president was winding down, so the networks and CNN took a deep breath, stayed with the president, then reported the verdict when the speech ended.

The plane story is a tragedy of unspeakable proportion for the families, and a compelling mystery for the rest of us, but our fascination with that should not lull us into underestimating the potential danger of what is unfolding in Ukraine, where some untoward, even accidental event could literally plunge the world into war.

So we'll keep you posted on both.

  • Bob Schieffer On Twitter»

    Bob Schieffer is CBS News' chief Washington correspondent and anchor of Face the Nation.

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