I'm not sure when it happened, but some time ago news coverage shifted from a somewhat dry recitation of world events to breathless end-of-the-world pronouncements.
I remember watching the Evening News or World News Tonight or whatever and some days there just wasn't much going on. On days like that, there were "human interest" stories that told about some inspirational person or a quirky event.
Part of the appeal of the movie Network was its concept of a network news division that went full-on tabloid-hysterical because the ratings were so good. Howard Beale's rant was supposed to be comic excess, but it's now just another day at the office for media in 2021.
In Scoop, Evelyn Waugh poked fun at how bored reporters could try to gin up a crisis. As was typical of his 1930s Smart Set books, he walked a fine line between credible satire and utter absurdity.
Truth is of course stranger than fiction, and Waugh's imaginary Daily Beast is now an actual website (consciously named in imitation his work, of course). It's just as unreliable.
This erosion of credibility was going on before the pandemic, but now it's pretty much a given that on any given day, some new item will be portrayed as the moral outrage of our time.
The problem is, when everything is a crisis, nothing is.
I think there's also a sense of people who no longer have a sense of history. This is mated with the secularist vision of nothing more important than gratifying the need of the moment. American culture has never been more obsessed with maintaining youthfulness or more terrified of death.
That's the counterpoint to the churn and burn on the front pages and the cable channels: the supermarket tabloids are running headlines that first premiered in the 1990s.
The Jennifer Anniston/Brad Pitt split happened decades ago, but it's still being updated. I guess its comforting for people locked down and wearing masks to see that their entertainment idols are still the same as they ever were.
As for me, I'm limiting my news diet these days. I decided to use some vacation this week, and I don't anticipate reading the news until Monday morning. I'm looking forward to the break.