Critique the Slate piece about the NYT trend story

I completely disagree with Leon Neyfakh in his “In Defense of the Trend Piece” in Slate. This article was enclosed in the “Culture Box” section of the website, it wasn’t stated anywhere that this was an Op-Ed piece, but it was very heavily opinionated. His praises for the NYT story about millennials was overtly bias. He made various facetious comments about millennials and his entire assessment was disrespectfully non-objective.

I was surprised that Slate would approved that article for publication. It was loaded with facetious remarks and blatant sarcasm. I never seen a tweet quoted in such a sarcastic manner.

The knives came out on cue.“NYT continuing to report on 80 million millennials as if they are one horrible person,” wrote one champion of rigor on Twitter, hoping to telegraph her brave opposition to generalizing.

Usually her twitter name or screenshot would be used for a quote. This was very unprofessional. You can tell he is using “champion of rigor on Twitter” to be dismissive and invalidate her opinion.

“I’d much rather read a NYT story about ‘millennials’ of color or the working poor or those with no or little college education,” tweeted a socially conscious user at pains to remind her followers of how deeply invested she is in the plight of the underprivileged.

He did it again!

“You want graphs, statistics, and mealy mouthed hedging about how only some men are wearing man buns and only some women are swearing off thongs? Go read an academic journal. Honestly, have a ball. I’ll be over here reading the paper like an adult, learning about my changing world in Technicolor and laughing my little head off,” Leon Neyfakh said.

“How can you not love this stuff? Because it’s not about the gravely important issues of the day? Get a life, you babies!”

Saying “I’ll be over here reading the paper like an adult” and “Get a life, you babies!” shows his extreme immaturity. These statements are disrespectful to a whole generation.


“But look at the headline, you say: “What Happens When Millennials Run the Workplace?” Clearly this was intended to be read as a comprehensive study of a national phenomenon—a broad indictment of an entire generation! Come on. No it wasn’t, and to read it that way is to assume a willfully dense and humorless stance.”

The worst part was that he tried to defend all trend pieces when the focus issue should have been about this one trend piece about millennials. He kept backtracking to random, cute, stylistic stories from the past decade. The New York Times could have done a better job with this story. It could be in the business section as feature story about innovative millennials starting their own news publication. develops credible content and it was disappointing to see the New York Times show such negative disregard for the progress is making to change the way readers consume news.



Ethical Dilemma in Reporting

Journalists serve an important role in the framework of our society. We are bound to ethical guidelines to:

  • Seek Truth and Report It
  • Minimize Harm
  • Act Independently
  • Be Accountable and Transparent

I think about these code of ethics whenever I am reporting a story. I am familiarizing myself with these ideologies so it will occur unconsciously in my work. As a student, I find myself wanting to be socially involved with my profile subject, but I also want to remain objective. We are often told to build good relationships and develop trust with the people you want to interview so they can be more comfortable and open. But we are also told that it is a conflict of interest to interview your friends. The interview provides an opportunity for the journalist and subjects to be friends in the future, but if the two become friends does that cancelled out future interviews? The objectivity factor makes me hesitant to be friends with the interview subject at a deeper more personal level, even though, I could really be their friend at that level. It’s like I have to ask myself, “Am I allowed to do that?”  I also don’t want people to think that I only wanted to talk to them for my interview and then disappear. When I pick a profile subject, it is someone I am legitimately interested in and I feel like the public should know more about them. It becomes a dilemma for me because I like to be involved and to participate. I understand my role as a journalist, but I think it provides a lot of substance to be involved.

For example, when I did a profile on John Gillespie I reviewed my audio and notes for the dialogue I was supposed to capture between him and his friends and I heard my own voice a lot. I captured a candid scene where people in the BSU office were talking about cartoons. I am friends with the people in that room and I naturally joined in the conversation. When I was listening to the audio, I felt like I couldn’t use any of my own input. It helped piece the information together, but I had to pick dialogue carefully so that I could remain objective. I am finding my balance between being participatory and being a “fly on the wall” in my reporting.

Profile: Liz Bowie

Liz Bowie is an established journalist. She currently writes for the education beat in the Baltimore Sun. Liz was recognized as the first prize winner for 2013 in the Single-Topic News or Feature in a large Newsroom by the Education Writers Association. Prior to her 15 year’s with the Baltimore Sun, Liz worked with environment, business and state government. She has become invested in telling the stories of students in Baltimore schools.

She spent eight months covering the lives of 3 immigrant students at East Baltimore’s Patterson High School. This particular high school in Baltimore had a 1/3 immigrant student population. This school has a long history of soccer championships since the 1930’s when it’s international population began to grow. Most of these students come from poor households and backgrounds with little to no English.

Bowie employed an intensive process to complete the  “Unsettled Journeys” Series for the Sun. She researched how to audition kids. She hired translators and also made house visits. Liz was determined to make the teens and their families comfortable.

Another part of the process was seeking permission to work in the school. It took her 3 months. Some of the teens didn’t speak that much English. She had to use a dictionary and pictures to help the students say the message they wanted to convey.

This story challenged her as a reporter and a writer. She was telling a story of trauma and she had to work to decipher experiences they had, that she couldn’t imagine. A little girl spoke about a nightmare that she had where an evil-witch figure was following her. Liz thought it was a fictional witch. So she decided to call a religious figure. The religious leader identified that the girl was probably envisioning the witch figures from her country.

She also used her resources to fact check the story of the little boy from Guatemala.She found ways to call people in Guatemala like his grandmother and a political figure. Bowie remained a little skeptical, but found the fact checking to be vital.

Confidentiality was also important for these students and their families. Liz didn’t compromise their status in America by publishing personal information just to get “the story”. She was ethical in reporting and writing this story.

She urges writers to start writing early. The earlier you start writing the more fun it is to do the reporting. Really good writers need time to reflect.

Profile: Erica L. Green

Erica Green covers the Education beat for the Baltimore Sun. She writes about school programs, new hires, budgets and politics related to education. When she shadows subjects for a profile she approaches it as an opportunity to gain understanding. She has received some of her best quotes and background information while walking down a hallway or listening to dialogue.

“Show, don’t tell. Profiles show all their layers that you cannot get from a one hour interview,” Green said.

When she profiled Tisha Edwards she often received information about her image that everyone already knew about her. She wasn’t highly favored, but Erica wanted to report another side of her. Green wanted to include information about Edwards when she was in pageants. She was faced with a dilemma because Edwards didn’t want to include that information in the story. Green had to respect the wishes of Edwards and keep that information unpublished.

It is the responsibility of the journalist to start with basic human communication, pay attention to detail and stay involved. Covering the education beat makes Erica very aware of what is happening in Baltimore schools. She was present when Frederick Douglass High School students were involved with throwing bricks at police officers. Her real question still remains: “Why was the MTA bus service suspended?”

“You set to write a story. It doesn’t mean it’s a good story or bad story. It’s their story,” Green said.