How to Write a Slate Article
For those of you who aren’t familiar with http://www.slate.com, Slate is a “news” site that specializes in needlessly contrarian articles on nothing. Even though I know better, I check the site from time to time, and occasionally they come up with a headline that gets the better of me.
Recently, for example, they posted an article entitled, “Could Asteroid Mining Plan Violate Space Law?”* I saw this, and I thought to myself, “Alright, Slate. You got me. My curiosity is piqued. But if the conclusion of this article is, ‘No one knows, because there’s no such thing as Space Law,’ I’m never going to forgive you.”
Well, guess what. From the last page of the article: “Whichever interpretation you prefer, it is clear that there is no international regime explicitly governing asteroid mining.” I hate you, Slate. I hate everything you stand for. Why would you get me excited about Space Law and then tell me there’s no Space Law?
That whole article was a cynical exercise in toying with my heart. And that’s why I’m giving away Slate’s secrets. I’ve discovered that every Slate article follows a predictable pattern:
1.) Provocative, counterintuitive headline.
2.) Brief statement of case for counterintuitive thing.
3.) Quotations from underqualified bozos who think counterintuitive thing.
4.) Quotation from an actual expert who affirms conventional wisdom and makes you wonder why you ever read the article.
5.) Stupid throwaway line about the importance of the issue for the future.
Now that you know this, you can easily write your own Slate-style articles. Here’s a short example I’ve thrown together:
Is Sesame Street Too Sexy for Your Toddler?
Sesame Street is one of the most beloved programs on television, praised by parents and educators alike for its positive message and successful inculcation of basic math and literacy skills. But a growing chorus of bozos argue the show is too sexually explicit for children.
“That Big Bird is just tooooo sexy,” said Peter Walton, a madman we found in a barn. “What with them big sexy chicken legs. Stop dressin’ so sexy, ya big sexy chicken!”
David Henderson, a child psychologist whose major qualification is a fake degree he scrawled on a napkin, seconds Walton’s assessment. “COOKIE MONSTER SEXY SEXY I LOVE DELICIOUS LSD, M’BOY!!!”
But some argue that this is an extremely contrived non-story. “This seems like an extremely contrived non-story,” said Sarah Eagleton, the first normal person we talked to. “Why would you write an article on this?”
One thing’s for sure. Whichever side you take, the heated debate about Sesame Street isn’t going away any time soon.