The Worst NYT Trend Story of the Year?

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.

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

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