Dramatic images of the war in Iraq have left people across the country struggling to decide when to watch TV and when to turn it off.
At the Cleveland State University student union Monday afternoon, the large-screen television set that had carried the war on Friday was tuned instead to soap operas.
Sitting on a campus park bench with a newspaper on her lap, Kathryn Quinn said the television images of war had become too much for her.
Quinn, 40, a professor at the university's college of nursing, said she wants to stay informed on what's happening in the war, but "it's disturbing to watch too much of it."
Keith Ritchie, 38, a commercial producer, having lunch outside a Subway sandwich shop in Phoenix, said, "I try not to watch too much of the war because it's the same stuff over and over again. I was glad when the regular programming got back to normal."
Robert Thompson, professor of media and popular culture at Syracuse University said the 24-hour coverage of the war may have made people lose interest in the war more quickly and could reduce public support for a long conflict.
"If you've got people after four and a half days saying they've had enough of the war, think of the magnitude of that statement," Thompson said. "World War II took four years."
Richard Wald, a former news executive at both NBC and ABC and now a professor at Columbia University School of Journalism, said that for news executives, the need to inform the public has to be balanced against how much the public will actually watch.
"How much bombing should you show? How much should you be on live with? At the outset of a war it is simple because everyone wants as much news as possible. But once it settles in and becomes a daily news report, it becomes a harder question," he said.
At Carolina Ale House in Cary, N.C., the Monday lunchtime crowd could choose from any of three dozen television sets to watch, all but a handful showing sports.
Robert Jordan, 41, of Cary, said coverage of the war was more information than he wanted.
"You get to a point where you see so much that I think it does affect a person's psyche. It just kind of bogs people down," Jordan said. "Even stress levels get up there, too. I hit a point where I just have to turn the TV off."
Some school districts, concerned about the stress on children, are asking teachers to turn off war coverage in classrooms except when there is a specific academic reason to watch.
Peggy Caldwell, spokeswoman for the 5,600-student school district in Shaker Heights, east of Cleveland, said principals have agreed that television sets should not be on in elementary classrooms.
"In upper grades, it should be sparing, related to the curriculum and should be turned off in time to allow for discussion," she said.
Todd Stogner, spokesman for the 40,000-student Oklahoma City Public Schools, said there has been no formal policy set by the district, but "the general thinking is to keep the coverage away from elementary students. This is the first time we've had live coverage of a conflict like this and you don't know what you might see."
In places where the TV was not tuned to war coverage it was probably tuned to highlights of the weekend's NCAA basketball tournament, which resumes Thursday.
During lunch Monday at the Market Street Bar & Grill, in a Newark, N.J., office complex, the three televisions were tuned to ESPN by popular demand. Manager Cheryl Schroth said, "Last week, they were all watching March Madness," Schroth said. "We had the news on, they said, 'Switch it to the basketball game, switch it to the basketball game!'"
At the Champs sports bar in downtown Indianapolis, only one small corner of a jumbo screen is tuned to the war coverage.
"I'd much rather watch the tournament because I can make money on it," said David White, 30. "There's no war pool."
But some people still can't turn away from the war.
At an Indianapolis bar called Alcatraz, Mike Magor gazed at an unmoving shot of the Baghdad skyline on one of the networks.
"It should be the main thing in everyone's life right now," said Magor, an airplane inspector who was laid off from United Airlines after Sept. 11. "I mean, I'm sitting here unemployed right now because of the war."
Ray Jablonowski, 53, an engineer for the city of Pittsburgh, said he watches war coverage constantly, even taking naps with the television news in the background.
"People need to see the horrors of war," he said over lunch at a downtown food court. "This is not just a TV show."