Atrios gets at the underlying problem with assigning journalists to “trends” beats: We aren’t typical consumers of culture; nor do our friends tend to be.
At NPR, when I was (briefly) assigned as “cultural trends correspondent”, the Assistant Managing Editor who supervised my desk kept pushing me to do two stories, one on women in late middle age having kids, the other on a certain TV show that was newly on the air.
I dug a bit and found that the rate at which women 35-45 were giving birth hadn’t changed; there’d simply been a slew of pregnancies among DC journalists in that age range. Likewise, the ratings for the show in question skewed to women 35-45 with college degrees, i.e. women much like the aforementioned Assistant Managing Editor.
I never did the stories.