November 19, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

Can you concentrate only when two people are talking to you at once? Do you go to foreign films just for the pleasure of reading the subtitles? When a train goes by, do you wish it had sentences painted on the side? If so, you just might have crawl fever.

And how could you avoid becoming hooked on these hypnotic stock-ticker-like updates, which ceaselessly scroll the latest headlines on the bottom of all-news networks CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News Channel? All three inserted the crawls on Sept. 11 (Fox was first, at around 10:45 a.m.), and to date they have no plans to end the loops. Now these screen staples are sliding over to non-news networks like Court TV, making an Animal Planet panda-update ticker a near inevitability.

For those of you following along, here are some fast crawl facts: Each network rotates up to 80 headlines in a 7-to-15-minute loop, with news-desk editors and writers inserting new headlines to replace old ones as they arise. While the look of the scrolls doesn’t vary much by channel, certain nuances do emerge: MSNBC (which, like Fox News, runs its crawl through commercials) almost exclusively dedicates its ticker to anthrax, terrorism, and the war abroad, but Fox News and CNN include the occasional showbiz or sports nugget. Explains Fox News assignment manager David Rhodes, ”It’s the only place we can report some of those things right now.”

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