The Worst NYT Trend Story of the Year?

More

Here's an early autumnal contender: Virginia Heffernan's entirely anecdotal story about a massive Facebook Exodus. How serious is this Facebook exodus? Heffernan explains:

The exodus is not evident from the site's overall numbers.

The exodus is not evident from the site's overall numbers! Some trend!


My understanding is that trend pieces should at best agree with relevant statistics, or at least be compatible with relevant statistics, or perhaps include no statistics whatsoever to preserve the integrity of a couple scattered observations. But Heffernan bravely spots and identifies a trend suffering from something worse than no evidence -- the preponderance of the evidence suggests the exact opposite thing!

The New York Observer debunks the piece (Facebook users are up more than 150 percent this year) but really, they're just re-citing a traitorous fact acknowledged in the third paragraph. The trend piece readily debunks itself.

At least this lamentable NYT item about hipster Brooklynites growing "burgeoning potbellies" was filed under the rubric "Noticed." I like that. It says to me: Look, this isn't a serious news story. It's something I thought of between the 42nd St metro subway and the Times building. I've done practically no additional work to verify this trend beyond call my friends and have them laugh and agree to be interviewed as urban experts. You know you'll read it. In all honesty, I am interested in what the world looks like to a NYT writer. I am not interested in that writer passing off his or her observations as an industry trend.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Time JFK Called the Air Force to Complain About a 'Silly Bastard'

51 years ago, President John F. Kennedy made a very angry phone call.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In