Summer is a strange time for news. Some like to call it “silly season” for the lack of major political events. This year, much has been said about the power of the pandemic to change our habits of news consumption but the general consensus is that, months in, the appetite for coronavirus-related stories has definitely decreased. A recent Reuters report on the subject says that the drop in interest in the UK has been “slow and steady” since the pandemic’s onset – even more so among younger readers and women.
So if people no longer want to read about coronavirus, what do they want to focus on instead? The easy assumption to make is that they’re after escapism – or are tempted to switch off the news altogether. But surveying the headlines in my home country of Italy over the past couple of weeks, it appears that another altogether grimmer alternative is once again gripping readers this August: many papers have decided to dissect gruesome crime news.
A fascination with the macabre has always been something of a hallmark of the hot months but it’s still confusing as to why people would want to move so quickly from tracking coronavirus numbers to reading detailed murder reports. If the rush to watch Contagion on Netflix back in March proves anything, it’s that sometimes the thirst for doom is mysteriously unquenchable. But fighting those urges is also important: neglecting to indulge in some of the silliness of the season seems like a crime in its own right to me.