Being in Washington, D.C., these days is a little like living in “The Twilight Zone” — and the media’s role is making the search for the sniper all the more eerie.

There was a horribly creepy moment Tuesday morning when CNN thought it had made a mistake when rushing to report that the 12th victim of the attacker had died.

Several moments later, CNN confirmed that bus driver Conrad Johnson had indeed died from a gunshot wound to the abdomen. Surely, CNN didn’t mean to look so relieved.

Newsies have in fact become a part of the sniper story — participants in a round-the-clock docudrama that meshes elements of Fox’s “24” with Court TV’s “Forensic Files.”

It’s entirely possible that the sniper — or snipers, but assumably a sole male — takes perverse pleasure in his media notoriety. It’s even possible he’s reading the clues reported on TV — a few of which it is debatable whether the newsies should have reported — and planning his next murderous move accordingly.

The killer is playing a cat-and-mouse game with the police, anchors and reporters point out, and they are simply detailing the moves on that distorted chessboard.

But is it really necessary to rush to get some snippet of the story first, a practice that leads to all sort of gaffes? Is it really necessary to show exactly where the various roadblocks are after each attack?

And is it really necessary for the news nets to dispatch top anchors to the Media Tent City that has sprung up outside Montgomery County police headquarters?

A little more restraint, please.

– Elizabeth Guider and Pamela McClintock

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