Sometimes, and perhaps with greater frequency now, reporters at the New York Times catch a cultural phenomena at its birth. These are the articles you read not because you already know about the topic--but because they are utterly fresh and enticing. And I am not referring to those articles that attempt to cast a survey of your close friends as a massive cultural shift, like the September 20, 2005 article "Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood," which, quite appropriately, got shredded.
But in an article dated April 27th, Styles reporter Warren St. John wrote about how MySpace.com profiles are becoming virtual shrines to people who have died tragically young. Okay, so most New York Times readers are probably vaguely aware of the Internet social community fad, and sites like MySpace.com-- even if it's from what their children tell them. And reporters have been trying too--the Times has run 86 articles in the last six months that mention Myspace.
But St. John's article, "Web Sites Set Up to Celebrate Life Recall Lives Lost," takes that extra step. He zooms in to examine 150 profiles of deceased people among the 70+ million that MySpace claims to have online. He highlights one website in particular that tracks these dynamic obituaries--http://www.mydeathspace.com/. A quick purview of that site enables you not only to anonymously visit the Internet "bedroom" of the deceased, but also see their friends and understand how they are reacting to their loss. It is microscopic, macabre, and universally fascinating. And I think it's good journalism.