Bogus trend stories of the week: meds-impaired drivers, doggie snubs, and the return of the bomb shelter.

Media criticism.
July 29 2010 5:16 PM

Bogus Trend Stories—Dog Days of Summer Edition

Meds-impaired drivers, doggie snubs, and the return of the bomb shelter.

(Continued from Page 1)

At USA Today, the hed says it all: "Doomsday Shelters Making a Comeback" (July 28).

How does USA Today know that doomsday shelters (aka bomb shelters) are coming back? Has it counted them over time?

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Of course not. What data does the newspaper have? It talks to three builders of underground shelters, who say business is up. One of them says sales have doubled every year for five years, which is a very soft number if the sales from five years ago weren't that great. Note to USA Today: Please be more suspicious of self-reported data in the future, and when reporting percentage increases and decreases please include the raw numbers behind those percentages.

The paper also speaks to the developer of doomsday shelters who is refitting an existing underground building to house 134 people. The Mojave Desert structure will function as a sort of cooperative for its "members" in the event of an asteroid strike, a nuclear attack, or political chaos. The developer plans to construct a "nationwide group of 20 fortified, underground shelters," USA Today reports.

Hey, USA Today, get back to me after the guy builds and sells his 20 shelters and then we can talk honestly about the shelter comeback.

******

Confused by the idiosyncratic spellings of hed and hedline? See this glossary. Thanks to my dog-day bogus trend-spotters Nicholas Kaufman, Ian Richmond, and Simon Waxman. See your name in print! Send me a bogus trend news story! Or send me a Fresca idea! The address is slate.pressbox@gmail.com. Visit my Twitter feed, which will double as my bunker when the Mayan end times arrive. (E-mail may be quoted by name in "The Fray," Slate's readers' forum; in a future article; or elsewhere unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)

Track my errors: This hand-built RSS feed will ring every time Slate runs a "Press Box" correction. For e-mail notification of errors in this specific column, type the word verification in the subject head of an e-mail message, and send it to slate.pressbox@gmail.com.

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

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