But Was The First Shoe-Wearer a Carrie or a Samantha?

Dear New York Times,

Thank you so much for your recent article, This Shoe Had Prada Beat by 5,500 Years. As a mindless consumer-zombie, I often miss out on important science news stories because they seem to be completely unrelated to my primary function in life: purchasing objects in the hopes of temporarily filling the yawning void in my soul that plagues my every waking moment.

I probably would have never read a story about archaeologists discovering some ancient doodad in a cave or whatever, because really, what have archaeologists done for me lately? But luckily I have a Google alert on the word “Prada,” so I was able to read your wonderful article about how some lady lived 5,500 years ago and she was, like, totally into handcrafted leather foot coverings just like I am! What’s next: discovering the oldest Cosmopolitan? THAT WOULD BE GREAT!

I especially enjoyed how you held my attention throughout the article by going on to mention Jimmy Choo, L.L. Bean (as if, HA HA am I right, ladies?), Manolo Blahniks, and celebrities named Sarah who ALSO WEAR SHOES such as Sarah Jessica Parker and Sarah Palin (I had no idea she wore red Double Dare pumps by Naughty Monkey, size 7 ½ and now that I know I can absolutely DIE OF HAPPINESS!). From what I’ve learned about science in this article, I think we can safely conclude that the lady who wore this really old shoe was most definitely also named Sarah!

My favorite part of the article was probably the lady scientist saying, “To find a shoe has always been my dream.” Especially a free one, am I right ladies? Am I right?!

I’ll be honest, I kind of tuned out for the last six or seven paragraphs, but don’t worry: I got the message loud and clear! Ladies have loved their shoes since we were, like, monkeys or whatever. GIRL POWER!

I’m looking forward to future science articles written by Pam Belluck in this same style. I took the liberty of skimming over the other science articles in the New York Times this week and reimagined them as though Pam had written them:

Old headline: Studies Show Jews’ Genetic Similarity

New headline: Jerry Seinfeld and J. J. Abrams: Separated at Birth??

Old headline: In New Space Race, Enter the Entrepreneurs

New headline: Where Would Spock Live? A Conversation With Sexy Zachary Quinto

Old headline: Daring to Discuss Women in Science

New headline: Would More Women Be Scientists In Exchange for Free Manolo Blahnicks?

Well, you get the idea.

Thanks again, New York Times. You’ve shown us all the future of science journalism, and it’s so bright I’ve gotta wear Marc by Marc Jacobs shades.


Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor.

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  1. YES. That story really annoyed me when you linked to it on Twitter. Maybe they get extra money if they shoehorn in a Sex and the City plug.

  2. This specific instance is not a matter of bad science journalism titles per se, but rather of a general trend towards headlines which manage to show up in popular search queries in Google News and similar services, so as to attract readers.

    It does get worse in science journalism though, when the article title completely mistates the facts, as in the case with the possibility of life in Titan.

  3. I guess I have to disagree with your general opinion of the article, Rebecca.. What, again, is wrong with tying in pop culture references in an article talking about something scientific?

    Is that any different than what the Skepchicks do here? Maybe that’s the part the author was attracted to. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using this tactic to attract attention to something that a lot of people don’t feel connected to.

    I, too, prefer the tone and language, and all-over thoroughness in the io9 coverage, however. But I don’t think miss Belluck did anything wrong by the topic.

    You wouldn’t be hatin so much if she’d referred to ya’ll and the classic, patent leather, red pumps.

  4. I love the bitter sarcasm!

    To be so perceptive of the general ignorance and tastelessness, and yet to have such good humor – its oddly inspiring.

  5. I do think you’re a bit harsh on Pam. After all, looking at her other articles it doesn’t look like it’s a habit of hers. On the other hand it’s a daft opening to an otherwise interesting article.

  6. @d.b.

    This specific instance is not a matter of bad science journalism titles per se, but rather of a general trend towards headlines which manage to show up in popular search queries in Google News and similar services, so as to attract readers.

    Sadly, I think this hits closest to the mark. Journalism is a business, not an ideal.

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