Talking with Jack Shafer about Bogus Trend Stories
by Mallary Tenore Tarpley
Last Friday I talked with Slate’s Jack Shafer about how he finds the bogus trend stories he writes about and what he considers to be some of the main characteristics of them. I got the story idea after seeing a few journalists tweet about Shafer’s latest criticism of The New York Times’ trend story about criminals wearing Yankees caps.
Shafer said that in the eight years that he’s reported on fake trend stories, only one reporter has contacted him in response — two years after the fact. Journalists don’t like owning up to having written fake trend stories, in some cases because they don’t think the “trends” they’ve written about are fake. As an experiment, I sent a tweet via Poynter’s Twitter account saying that we would give a free travel mug or T-shirt to the first journalist who owned up to writing a fake trend story. Not surprisingly, no one responded!