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)

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.


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

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

How Will Climate Change Affect Cities?

Urban planners and environmentalists predict the future of city life.

Video

The Inner Life of a Drag Queen

A short documentary about cross-dressing, masculinity, identity, and performance

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In