- Is there a snappy historical quote for the top of the piece? Yes—Winston Churchill's infamous, "I shall be sober tomorrow, whereas you will still be ugly."
- Is there a recently-published scientific or academic paper? On ugliness, several. "Ugliness has recently emerged as a serious subject of study and academic interest unto itself... 'It hasn’t been politically correct to talk about uglyism, said Anthony Synnott, a professor of sociology at Concordia University in Montreal, who is publishing a paper next month on ugliness." Also: "Researching the phenomenon of Ugly Betty, Madeleine Shufeldt Esch, an adjunct assistant professor in communications at Tulane, contributed a paper, 'Ugly Is the New Beautiful,' to a meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Media."
- Is there a cultural reference? Yes. Shrek, the lovable scary green monster and a television show, Ugly Betty, which ABC promoted with a “Be Ugly” campaign stressing self-esteem for girls and young women."
- Is there something being litigated? "Few laws prohibit employment discrimination based on lack of attractiveness, although some plaintiffs have pursued cases under broader statutes..."
- Is there something corresponding to your contrarian statement/idea going on in the art world? A new exhibit at the Met, or a new book? "Last year, the Italian novelist and critic Umberto Eco published On Ugliness, a 450-page book largely devoted to ugliness in art."
- Is there a "to be sure" paragraph near the end that basically negates the entire article? "Indeed, [Ugly Betty’s] star, America Ferrara, is universally considered attractive..." Also, last line: "“I think there was a brief ugly moment,” Ms. Esch said. “But it may have been a passing fancy.”
- Is there an inappropriate ad/article placed nearby? Previous page: "Looking Good: the Sequel."
If you can find a bunch of loosely-connected references to a certain subject floating around the zeitgeist, you can write a trend piece! Today's "Move Over, My Pretty, Ugly Is Here" in the NYT's Styles is the pitch-perfect example. A truly bad, meaning typical, trend piece can be broken down into pure science. The first thing you need? A contrarian question or statement! ("Is ugly the new pretty?") Got that? Here's a step-by-step checklist to writing the rest:Now that you've got your contrarian question or statement, the Times editors are going to be on your ass about getting facts and "proof" of this trend existing. Not as highly anecdotal as the Observer, though—you'll have to call in all sorts of experts. Ask yourself: