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Pick of the day: Picking apart newspaper trend stories

Newspaper stories about cultural trends often offer up funny characters who, for some reason, have chosen publicly to speak about their seemingly non-newsworthy but quirky lifestyles.

But too often, these pieces also become pinatas for press critics and readers to swing at. Hamilton Nolan, my favorite Gawker writer, posted a piece yesterday, entitled "How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Fake Trend Story," which picked apart a slew of recent New York Times stories -- parents jogging with baby strollers, people living in freezing apartments to save money, comedians living in Queens -- for their strained attempts to prove why the story matters, or why the thesis is true.

In the tradition of Slate's Jack Shafer, a longtime dissecter of bogus trend stories, Nolan's piece efficiently analyzes what ruins trend stories and what signals to the reader that the story might not be as solid as it's supposed to be. Here are Nolan's categories: 1) The Run-On Nightmare; 2) The Unsupported Anecdote-to-Wide Angle Pivot; 3) The Futile Attempt to Disprove Its Own Acknowledgment of Preposterousness; and 4) The Improper Use of "More Than Likely."

As in this paragraph from that recent Times story on comedians gravitating to Queens:

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.

More than likely, experts says, Nolan's piece is one of many on Gawker's web site that you will no doubt enjoy. Be sure: Here's his piece.

By Ian Shapira  | February 10, 2010; 8:04 AM ET
Categories:  Story Picks  
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