Friday, September 23, 2005

Weasel-Words Rip My Flesh! - Spotting a bogus trend story on Page One of today's New York Times. By Jack Shafer

New York Times.
By Jack Shafer
Posted Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2005, at 3:38 PM PT

How many "many's" are too many for one news story?

Like its fellow weasel-words—some, few, often, seems, likely, more—many serves writers who haven't found the data to support their argument. A light splash of weasel-words in a news story is acceptable if only because journalism is not an exact science and deadlines must be observed. But when a reporter pours a whole jug of weasel-words into a piece, as Louise Story does on Page One of today's (Sept. 20) New York Times in "Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood," she needlessly exposes one of the trade's best-kept secrets for all to see. She deserves a week in the stockades. And her editor deserves a month.

Story uses the particularly useful weasel-word "many" 12 times—including once in the headline—to illustrate the emerging trend of Ivy League-class women who attend top schools but have no intention of assuming the careers they prepared for.

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