I hope readers who grumble that the media report only bad news noted last week's extensive coverage of the big asteroid that didn't crash into Earth.

The New York Times headlined its front-page story by Warren Leary "Big Asteroid Passes Near Earth Unseen In Rare Close Call."It certainly was good news that it missed us a month ago by 500,000 miles, which, cosmicly speaking, was indeed a near hit.

The asteroid - a half-mile or more in diameter - had been barreling toward Earth at 46,000 mph.

Scientists said if it had collided with our planet the impact would have been equivalent to the explosion of 20,000 one-megaton hydrogen bombs, which could have wiped out entire cities.

I enjoy reading much of what the Times considers fit to print, but this basically was a ho-hum news story. Leary should be commended for making a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

After all, who needs to know a month after the fact that something didn't happen. In the media business, old news is a non-starter.

On the other hand, anything from space that actually is threatening Earth is a hell of a story.

Had my science sources not failed to tip me off that the asteroid was bearing down on us, I could have scooped even the supermarket tabloids on what could have been a sensational yarn.

My fast-breaking scoop, quoting my exclusive science sources, would have stoppped presses and led network newscasts throughout the world. I can see the banner headlines now:

Subsequent headlines and stories could warn that if the asteroid hit an ocean it would create "killer tidal waves" that would wash over vast coastal regions.

This would be the ultimate environment story. The toadstool nuts would find it as riveting as the tabloid readers.

Even a near hit by the asteroid - comprised of rock and dust - could leave earthlings hacking in its wake of billowing clouds of killer dust.

Included in my coverage would be scary background stuff on the theory that holds that an asteroid that struck Earth 65 million years ago killed all the dinosaurs.

The asteroid Icarus came within 4 million miles of nailing us in 1968. This prompted some heavy thinkers to consider the possibility of firing a missile with a nuclear warhead at an asteroid in hopes of deflecting it from Earth.

Leary reported in the Times that a 1982 scientific conference in Colorado studied the question of using nuclear weapons against asteroids and concluded that it could be done.

Scientists calculate that the asteroid that missed us last month by a half-million miles is orbiting the sun once a year on an elliptical path that regularly brings it back toward Earth.

Henry Holt, the Northern Arizona Univerity astrogeologist and astronomer who discovered the object in photographs, told the Times that, "Sooner or later, it should collide with the Earth, the moon or Mars."

I don't know how long "sooner or later" is in cosmic terms but the next time an big asteroid threatens Earth I trust my science sources will phone me.