Monday, December 26, 2011
New York Times. I'm Pointing The Finger At You.
I'm very annoyed by the kind of articles, quite common in the so-called women's sections, where the writing seems to have gone like this:
1. I have a plot idea! We are going to say that all women now wear false eye-lashes.
2. I'm going to find some data that seems to back up my argument that this is a trend. Anything will suffice! If the sale of false eye-lashes has doubled in Dinkytown (from two pairs to four pairs, say), then I have data for a trend!
3. But most of the piece will be interviews with women who wear false eye-lashes now and how that is a statement of feminist intention and something that they really want to do. (These are real women, probably, telling their stories. The crime is that the stories are used as evidence to prop up the idea of a trend, even though anecdotes can be found on almost any behavior if one searches.)
What's wrong with this? Other than turning the whole idea of how one does research upside-down? Other than selectively finding ONLY those people who agree with your views and not the ones who disagree with your views? Other than being bad with data games?
The frequency of these pseudo-trends is often about women's behavior. As if it doesn't really matter whether one get something like that right or not. Who cares if women are misinformed and pressured into silly choices?
I have never quite understood why the New York Times loves this particular kind of bad journalism when it comes to women. They don't do it with health reporting which is quite excellent. They don't do it with most of science reporting (unless it is about gender), and at least some of their stories on general politics are not like that.
This is the piece which provoked my rant. But the Times has published several similar pseudo-trend pieces in the past and I have written about them. And let's not forget the horrible piece on the rape of an eleven-year-old girl.