All the News that Fuels Your Worry

If news coverage of COVID-19 is getting you down, read on…

That unstoppable anxiety generator, The New York Times, is once again covering a singular event with such breadth and depth that it’s hard to know what news angle its staff is missing. You’d think its editors, knowing the Apocalypse is near, have dispatched reporters to cover every last bit of life before the world blows up. Political, scientific, and human interest stories and charts on everything you might want to know about COVID-19, direct or ancillary, it’s all there. But in the name of what? Information? History? Wisdom? Entertainment?

How about morbidity? I was living in New York after 9/11. I was remotely acquainted with people who’d lost their lives, and I knew others who’d escaped the World Trade Center with minutes to spare.

The Times was on top of the story with excellent reporting. But then came a feature about the lives and aspirations of each of the nearly 3,000 victims. As I recall, these pieces appeared several per day, and the series dragged on long after most New Yorkers were coming to terms with the calamity and needed to move on. New Yorkers were tired of mourning; they were exhausted with the stories, for example, about victims’ families chastising city officials who by late fall — needing to clean up the site — were moving the wreckage (which possibly included bone fragments) to a landfill on Staten Island.

We grieved for the loss, but how much grief were we supposed to bear? I stopped reading the victims’ portraits. It wasn’t time for me to bear an inordinate amount of grief. My day for deep grief would come, as it does for all of us.

In that vein, The Times is now publishing an ancillary obituary feature called “Those We’ve Lost,” with obits by people — even those who wouldn’t normally rate a precious Times obit — who have died from the virus. My question is, “Why?” Is this a tribute? Virtue signaling? Or is it a romance with morbidity?

What feature will the paper think of next? How about “Important Things That Have Been Stolen During the COVID-19 Crisis?” We can start with the Van Gogh painting that disappeared on March 30 in a smash-and-grab heist at the Singer Laren Museum near Amsterdam.

Well, I’m going to resist consuming The Times soup-to-nuts COVID feast. Instead, I’ll continue to open a photo on my phone of a young artist — perhaps a future Van Gogh — who has mounted an modest exhibition to give every passerby hope (above).

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