I don’t have a reasonable answer for this, just an observation in many years of design work. Every bit of white space must be populated by something – a photo, illustration, text, anything but bloody white space. Even on the web where space generally isn’t an issue, all that whiteness nevertheless irks folks. But who am I to deride the white space haters? The OCD must have kicked in so here I sit, filling up white space.
The head fish better get back to producing interesting narrative for the site pronto because this sort of drivvel may soon invade every bit of white space availabe. Trust me, you really don’t want that.