With our troops in Iraq in the middle of a bloody civil war, gas prices inching towards 4 bucks a gallon, and the gap between the uber-wealthy and the working class getting worse, a leaked recording was big news recently.
Was it the missing 18 and 1/2 minutes of Watergate tapes "accidentally" erased by Nixon secretary Rosemary Woods? No. It was the actor Alec Baldwin's angry phone message to his daughter.
And somehow, it was a major news story. That voice mail message was played, replayed, and scrutinized by child psychologists, anger management experts, divorce lawyers, and anyone else camera-ready and close to a studio.
As the Virginia Tech tragedy and the agonizing details unfolded, you knew that was big news — then the story was repeated, rewound and recapped; students, professors, witnesses, and the grief-stricken were pulled in front of the cameras and bombarded with questions. Then came the videotaped confession that the killer mailed to NBC News. And then the hand-wringing disclaimers about news and ethics. It was relentless coverage and instant hindsight.
But "Coming up next… more on Sanjaya!" A kid with his own hair and teeth and little else vaults from mediocrity on "American Idol" to the White House Correspondent's Dinner. And dig this. The clash of the important and the inane continued as the President and First Lady made their own appearance on "Idol" last week. True, the President was thanking Americans for their generous donations, and he shared a "yuk" with the 70 million voters, but I wonder: Did he spend the same amount of time on his carefully-crafted cameo as when he met with Congressional leaders defending his Iraq policies on Wednesday?
What is news? It's all a blur, run into the ground, with war, politics and pop culture given the same value. It's like pulling all-nighters to cram for exams. Sure, you'll pass, but did anything really "stick?"
Does anything stick now?