Spotting a bogus trend story in today's New York Times.

Media criticism.
Sept. 20 2005 6:38 PM

Weasel-Words Rip My Flesh!

Spotting a bogus trend story on Page One of today's New York Times.

(Continued from Page 1)

While bogus, "Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood" isn't false: It can't be false because it never says anything sturdy enough to be tested. So, how did it get to Page One? Is there a New York Times conspiracy afoot to drive feminists crazy and persuade young women that their place is in the home? Did the paper dispatch Times columnist John Tierney to write a pair of provocative columns on this theme earlier this year (early May and late May) and recruit Lisa Belkin to dance the idea around in an October 2003 Times Magazine feature titled "The Opt-Out Revolution"?

Nah.

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I suspect a Times editor glommed onto the idea while overhearing some cocktail party chatter—"Say, did you hear that Sam blew hundreds of thousands of dollars sending his daughter to Yale and now she and her friends say all they want in the future is to get married and stay at home?"—and passed the concept to the writer or her editors and asked them to develop it.

You can see the editorial gears whirring: The press has already drained our collectiveanxiety about well-educated women assuming greater power in the workplace. So, the only editorial vein left to mine is our collective anxiety about well-educated women deciding not to work instead. Evidence that the Times editors know how to push our buttons can be found in the fact that as I write, this slight article about college students is the "Most E-Mailed" article on the newspaper's Web site.

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Slate's new slogan should be "For Overeducated Stay-at-Home Mothers Who Think." Send your slogans to slate.pressbox@gmail.com. (E-mail may be quoted unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Addendum, Sept. 24:But wait... I have more to say about this Times piece.

Addendum, Sept. 28:On Sept. 23, Louise Story described on NYTimes.com how she reported her article.

Jack Shafer was Slate's editor at large. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at Shafer.Reuters@gmail.com.