How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Fake Trend Story

We all know that New York Times fake trend stories are annoying because they are 1) fake, and 2) trend stories. But do not neglect their third worst quality: many are terribly written. Allow us to show you.

The underlying cause of the poorest-written portions of most fake trend stories is the insistence by NYT editors that every fake trend story have some sort of "stats" graf—a graf that attempts to force a clearly made-up premise into an empirically justifiable form. Since fake trend stories are, by definition, pure bullshit, this requirement often results in the most tortured or transparently ridiculous part of what could have been a perfectly decent story, had it been upfront about its total lack of journalistic merit. Examples:

  • The Run-On Nightmare: The NYT's in-house grammar scold highlights this (14 verb forms in one sentence!), from last month's "Hipsters are living in cold apartments" piece:

    As Americans across the country wrestle with spouses and their thermostats over how low to go - as they join contests like Freeze Yer Buns, now in its third year, a challenge posed by Deanna Duke, a Seattle-based environmental blogger who calls herself the Crunchy Chicken, to lower the thermostat to around 55 degrees, or follow the lead of the Maine couple trying to live comfortably in a furnace-free house and blogging about it in their Cold House Journal - there are those who are living nearly without heat by choice, and doing just fine, thank you very much.

  • The Unsupported Anecdote-to-Wide Angle Pivot: From September's "Everybody is jogging with their babies now" fitness piece:

    Mrs. Keith is an extreme example of an increasingly common breed of runner: parents who hit the road with their offspring in jogging strollers, typically single or double versions with two 16-inch inflatable tires in back and a single tire in front.

    But, experts say, there is a learning curve to running with a stroller.

  • The Futile Attempt to Disprove Its Own Acknowledgment of Preposterousness: From Guy Trebay's lively exposé of the Hamptons t-shirt industry:

    It's not exactly news that clothes denote status, but in beachside communities, where even corporate raiders and United States senators slope around in flip-flops and board shorts, the signs of inclusion among local elites are more challenging to convey. And, while there is no formalized uniform to identify which group one belongs to, a lot can be read in an item that upon a time was worn as underclothes.

  • The Improper Use of 'More Than Likely:' From Allen Salkin's mathematical proof that New York's young white comedians flock to Astoria, Queens, just like "creatures that flourish at certain warm depths of a coral reef but not a foot deeper where the water is colder:"

    Thanks to cheap rents that allow time for writing, ample parking that makes road trips to out-of-town clubs easy and a myriad of other comedian-lifestyle perks, it has become more than likely that if you meet a comedian outside a New York City club, he (most of them are men) will tell you he lives in the Queens neighborhood better known as a gold mine of Greek restaurants.

New York Times editors: Please stop torturing your writers, and their readers. Let bullshit be bullshit.
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