Things are never particularly good for the New York Times when it comes to their attempts at trend pieces, but I think it’s fair to say today is an especially bad day for them. First, they publish a tone-deaf, gibberish op-Ed about the dangers of “irony,” then Dave Holmes tells a story about how his friend enlisted him for a totally made-up trend piece the paper then saw fit to publish. Brutal.
After last week’s widely bemoaned announcement that Hostess will be closing up shop, the former MTV VJ posted on his Tumblr about the time he had a fake “Twinkie party” to fill out an Style Section article his friend was writing back in 2001. It went down like this:
“One afternoon long ago, I was walking down 1st Avenue with my friend Jancee, who was getting ready for her first interview with one of the editors of the New York Times SundayStyles section. She went over some story ideas she wanted to pitch the guy, we discussed them, we stopped at a bodega to get some water, I picked up a 2-pack of Twinkies on a whim, and we split them. It had been years since I’d eaten one, and we agreed it tasted like childhood. “I want to have a party and serve only Twinkies,” I said (apparently). We parted ways.
At the interview, she pitched her best story idea. The guy wasn’t into it. Then another. No sale. Another. Pass. In a panic, she blurted, “My friend is going to have a Twinkie party,” and- on the spot- improvised a trend piece about comfort food at swell parties.
Later that day, Jancee called. “Remember the Twinkie party you were going to have?” I did not. “Well, could you have it? Could it be next Friday? And would you mind if I came with a photographer?””
And thus, a largely fictional trend piece was born. While Jancee did actually manage to find other “swell” New Yorkers serving up White Castle and Popeye’s at parties, she also found experts willing to speculate that junk food is comforting to a “latchkey kid generation,” and that people Gen X or younger don’t really like “fancy food.” And we all now how that played out.
Anyway, no one here is about to criticize a freelance writer for doing what they need to do to get a paycheck and/or Times byline. We will, however, gleefully mock the Times editor that decided this was a good, publishable idea for the Grey Lady.
If it makes them feel any better, though, the Post published a column today about the “War on Thanksgiving,” so it could still all be much worse.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.